Creativity in math: opening closed problems for further study

An interview with Simon Lavallée, “netmathematician”, on the occasion of his participation in the CréaCamp in Montreal, on November 17th.

You might also like:

An interview with Simon Lavallée, “netmathematician”, on the occasion of his participation in the CréaCamp in Montreal, on November 17th.

Text by Audrey Miller

How can the teaching and learning of mathematics be made more creative and more conducive to discussion and exchange between students? For Simon Lavallée, netmathematician at Netmath, an interesting way for a teacher to do this is to "open" closed math problems. We discussed it with him during the CréaCamp Montreal, held on November 17, 2017, where he worked on the subject with a group of teachers.

Here is an example of a closed problem: “Bob and Alice go fishing. They caught 10 fish. If Bob caught 4, how many did Alice catch? ". In this problem, there is only one correct answer.

If we open up the problem, it can become: “Bob and Alice are going fishing. They caught 10 fish. How many fish did each catch? ". Here, the possibilities for discussion between the pupils are already greater. Even more interesting, imagine the problem is quite simply, "Bob and Alice are going fishing." How many fish did they catch? ". This example of a problem leaves room for estimation and, above all, it has no single answer! In fact, very simply, it suffices to take a closed problem and strike out parts of it to make it open. This however changes the role of the math teacher, who can now guide a discussion.

For Simon Lavallée, the CréaCamp was the perfect place to explore this idea with other teachers. In this interview, he explains in particular the educational interest in opening up mathematical problems. He also believes that this is an ideal way to bring the teaching approach in three acts, as proposed by the American Dan Meyer :

Act 1: Pique the curiosity of young people through an initial situation (which also makes it possible to identify the questions that young people are asking themselves);

Act 2: Identify the elements that will be needed to solve the problem;

Act 3: Respond to the question.

He invites teachers interested in knowing more to visit his website. to know more.

Twitter: @slavallee_qc

Some announcements

Our Network at Your Service

Use our network to spread your good news or share your projects! Write to us at

You can also publish your own text!
Publicize your educational project or share your ideas via our Opinion, Testimonials or Press Releases sections! Here's how to do it!

Receive École branchée news!

Get École branchée | Weekly News as well as the programming of our services every week!

About the Author

Stephanie Dionne
Stéphanie Dionne is director of development and partnerships, facilitator and speaker. It contributes to the influence of players in the education sector and its ecosystem. In addition, it supports parents, teachers and workers in a mentality of co-education in order to allow young people to become fulfilled citizens in the digital age.