Monday, May 20, 2013

Different Question: Same Answer

English: Venn diagram demonstrating the role o...
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by Richard D Boyce

One of the skills of excellent teaching is good questioning technique.

I was fortunate to be trained initially as a primary school teacher where you needed to be able to ask relevant questions in a range of subject areas.

A year after graduation, I was transferred into the secondary school arena.

Here for almost ten years I taught a variety of subjects.

These included English, Science, Mathematics, History and Geography with even a little Physical Education thrown in.

This enhanced my understanding of the need to question in different ways. The remainder of my career was spent teaching Mathematics.

Therefore, for that reason and because we all did Maths at school, let me use Mathematics to illustrate these points.

  • Questioning in different ways can extend students' understanding of the subject.
  • It can enhance their critical thinking/problem solving skills.
  • It can teach the vocabulary of the subject studied.
  • It can develop an understanding of and the use of the language and terminology of the subject.
  • It will help develop communication skills as well.

Here are questions from the field of Mathematics.

  1. 5 plus 7
  2. What is the sum of 5 and 7?
  3. Increase 5 by 7
  4. What do I get when I add 5 to 7?
  5. What is 5 more than 7?
  6. Simplify 5 + 7
  7. Find the missing number 7+ 5=...
  8. Solve 7 + 5 =..?..
  9. Two items I want to buy are $5 and $7 each. How much money do I give the sales person?
  10. Increase 5 by 7
  11. If the answer to a sum of two numbers is 12; and one of the numbers is 7, what is the other number?
  12. 7 take 5
  13. 7 minus 5
  14. Take 5 from 7
  15. 7 subtract 5
  16. Subtract 5 from 7
  17. What is the different between 7 and 5?
  18. Decrease 7 by 5
  19. What must I increase 5 by to get 7?
  20. What do I take/subtract from 7 to get 5?
  21. I have $7 and I spend $5 on an ice cream. How much do I have left to spend on lollies?
  22. 5 times 7
  23. 5 multiplied by 7
  24. Add 7 up 5 times
  25. What is the product of 5 and 7?
  26. The factors of the number I want are 5 and 7. What is the number?
  27. Solve 57=?
  28. Find the missing number... ?..= 5 7
  29. Simplify 5 7
  30. 35 divided by 5
  31. 35/5
  32. If 5 is a factor of 35, what is the other factor?
  33. What do I get when I divide 5 into 35?
  34. How many times can I take 5 away from 35?
  35. How many 5s do I add together to get 35?

Of course, in each group of questions the answer is the same. I'm sure in every learning area at each level teachers could devise a 'similar' quiz. Obviously, it is an opportunity to revise and enlarge the vocabulary of the subject while enhancing learning.

Teachers should keep a record of these questions and enlarge their list as they go. Teachers could ask these questions in the form of a quiz in primary and lower secondary schools where they can also be valuable revision tools.

Our author spent over 40 years in the classroom. Early in his career he taught many subjects as well as Mathematics and mastered the art of asking questions in different ways to test the depth of understanding of his students and to enhance their learning.

He has put all his experience in an eBook, "The Question Book". It examines all aspects of questioning providing practical hints for the teacher. The website is

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