Is your classroom open for
Engaging Students Through The
Use of Open Questions & Parallel
Minds On:
Which tree has grown more?
Analyzing the task
• Open-response,
open-ended, openrouted?
• What makes the
question open?
• What answers are
possible? Which do
we most value?
• Multiple entry points
provide differentiation
• Strategies for
discussing answers
Our session goals are to respond
to the following questions:
What are open and parallel tasks?
Why use these types of questions?
With whom should I use them?
How are they created?
When and how should they be used?
What are the conditions needed to be
Open questions can be created by
providing the answer
Analyzing the task
• Are the labels “closed”
and “open” correct?
• What prior learning does
the student need to
understand to respond to
each question?
• What scaffolding can we
provide struggling
students to engage in the
• What scaffolding can we
provide competent
students to go deeper
into the problem?
Scaffolding to prompt thinking
• Does the line slant up or down? How do you
• Is the line steep? How steep?
• If you knew one point on the line, how would you
move to get another point?
• If you use (0,0) as one point, can you use rise
over run to find the other?
• Is there more than one line with this slope?
• Can you find a pair of points with one point in the
(-,-) quadrant?
Prompting for similarities and
differences opens up a question
Open by allowing students to
choose numbers or context
Describe a situation that could reasonably produce this graph. Then, explain
each of the three parts of the graph. Include appropriate numbers and labels.
Parallel tasks
Task A
Task B
To create a parallel task:
1. Start with a typical question
2. Create a parallel task by identifying and
removing anticipated barriers
3. Ensure both tasks focus on the same
4. Prepare common questions that can be
posed to the entire class
What common questions can be
used to discuss these tasks?
Common questions
Common questions should:
• Engage students of both
• Make student thinking
• Make connections and
close the gap
• Provide an opportunity to
reason, prove, reflect on
reasonableness of
• Provide an opportunity to
practice vocabulary
• Do you know which way
your line slants? How do
you know?
• Could (0,0) be on your
line? How do you know?
• Why was it a good idea to
choose one point where
the x-coordinate was 3
away from -4?
• What points did you use?
How did you choose
Practice and sharing
With a partner:
1. Select a problem from handout or one of your
own (write it out)
2. Change it into an open or parallel task
3. Create prompts/scaffolding students that can’t
get started during the activity
4. Create prompts/questions to ask to discuss
Be prepared to share you ideas with the group
using the document camera
• What? Open and parallel tasks provide
with multiple entry points
• Why & who? Accessible questions engage
learners at various levels
• How? Question can be opened by allowing
students to choose context and numbers,
giving the answer, using open wording.
Parallel tasks are created by removing the
anticipated barrier
What do you think?
• When: When would you provide students opportunities
to engage in open or parallel questions?
– near the beginning or end of a lesson or unit?
– before or after closed problems?
• How: How would you use open and parallel tasks?
– assessment for, as or of learning?
– in groups or individually?
• Conditions: What classroom conditions are needed to be
to be successful engaging in open and parallel tasks?
How would you build this capacity?
Try a few open or parallel tasks in your
Start small. Build positive conditions.
Share your experiences in April.

Differentiating Math Through The Use of Open Questions