From What iS? to What iF?

To open opportunities for students’ math reasoning, change the questions.

Instead of What iS? Ask What iF?

The questions look similar. Yet they imply very different responses.

  • What iS? “Give an answer”
  • What iF? “Consider the possibilities”

Too often, students experience math as a pursuit of “What iS?” rather than an exploration of “What iF?

Take graphs and functions for example,

  • What iS a graph of a function?
  • What iF a graph represents a function?

The first question implies that students should give an answer – a graph of a function. The second question implies that students consider possibilities for graphs that represent functions.

Questions communicate what gets privileged.

Rather than just telling students that their math reasoning is important, ask questions that privilege reasoning rather than answer finding.