The Best Question I Ever Asked

I was inspecting a Y3 class and came across a boy who’d been given a worksheet of fifty questions.  Fifty!  To my mind, if the child has mastered the skill then you don’t need anywhere like fifty examples to prove it.  And if they haven’t, then it’s pretty disgraceful to give them fifty opportunities to ram their failure home more and more heavily.

When I came across Cunningham he’d reached number 34.  Question 34 asked him to perform 5 – 2 .  (What on earth, you may wonder, were questions 1 to 33 like?)

I couldn’t bring myself to ask him for the answer – but I did ask if he thought he could manage the challenge.  Not surprisingly he felt it was within his capabilities, so I asked “Can you give me another sum which would have the same answer?”

And – instantly – he wrote   1000 – 997

It’s hard to imagine ever meeting such a horrible mismatch between what a child was capable of and what he was actually being asked to do.  I didn’t much enjoy doing inspections, but this was certainly a light-bulb moment and a tribute to the power of asking open rather than closed questions.

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