Open-Ended Math Tasks

A powerful, effective and easy way to differentiate in math is through open-ended tasks.  Open-ended math tasks…

  • Do not have one right answer
  • May be completed at different levels and in different ways
  • Empower students to make mathematical decisions
  • Engage students in productive struggle to build understanding
  • Encourage student creativity

Open-ended math tasks are used in guided math lessons where the teacher can support students in their decisions, discussions and sharing of ideas. They are also used at workstations with students working independently or collaborating with a team. The three categories you may use to assess the tasks are:

  • Complexity: The work matches the level of the student
  • Correctness: All math terms, computation and information is correct.
  • Neatness: Completed task is neat and easy to understand

Here are some ways to develop open-ended math tasks that do not take a lot of teacher preparation. Click here to download 12 open-ended math task cards to use with grades 1-5 students at any math level.

  1. Compare and Contrast: Students choose two numbers, shapes, graphs, etc and explain in writing and diagrams how they are alike and different.
  2. What’s the Question? Students are given the answer and then write a word problem with a question for the answer. This task card could be given to students at any grade level.  math task zombies
  3. What’s the Answer and the Question? Students fill in the answer and create a word problem for their answer.math card marbles
  4. Adjust Closed Word Problems: Take closed word problems for your grade level and remove some of the values.

Closed: Taylor has 854 baseball cards, and Kyle has 928.  If Taylor and Kyle combine their baseball cards, how many cards will there be? 

Open-Ended: Taylor has lots of baseball cards, and Kyle has even more cards than Tyler. If Jade and Kyle combine their baseball cards, how many cards will there be?

Closed: Bobby saw 3 cows, 2 horses and 6 chickens at the farm. How many animals did Bobby see at the farm?

Open-Ended: Bobby saw some cows, horses and chickens at the farm. How many animals did Bobby see at the farm? 

Closed: In the fish tank there are 28 fish. One fourth of the fish are goldfish. How many goldfish are in the tank. 

Open-ended:MT orange 5

  1. Close or Almost: Using these words on math tasks gives students many more possibilities for their answers.   

Add two numbers where the sum is almost 25. What could the numbers be?                    Multiply two numbers where the product is close to 500. What could the numbers be?

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