# 20 Examples of Math Essential Questions to Deepen Learning

Math problems can get really tough. And when they do, it is easy for students to get confused and lose sight of how mathematics connects to the real world and their lives. Math essential questions are a great way to help students connect mathematical ideas together, while grounding them in real life!

But what exactly are math essential questions, and how do you create and ask them?

## What Are Math Essential Questions?

Math essential questions are broad questions that can be asked in order to give direction to a unit or a series of lesson plans. Typically, teachers present essential questions to their class before a lesson begins. This gives students a deeper concept to anchor their understanding back to throughout each lesson.

Often times teachers will work math essential questions into their lesson plans to prompt deeper thinking and to help students form connections between concepts and to the real world. As a unit moves forward, students gain more and more mathematical knowledge that they can use to help them explore the essential questions for the unit.

Essential questions are also an effective way to help students develop a positive mathematical mindset and a positive relationship with mathematics. And when students have a growth mindset toward learning and mathematics, they are more likely to enjoy deeper learning that connects concepts to the real world!

## How Are Math Essential Questions Used By Students?

When students are presented with math essential questions, they are given a question that sparks their curiosity. Students can use essential questions as a challenge of sorts. Their task is to gather tools and knowledge from throughout the unit to help them answer and explore the essential question.

Often times math essential questions do not have a single answer. Instead, students use the skills they develop from solving math problems to help them *explore* possible ways of answering the essential question. This can help students develop a deeper appreciation for knowledge in general, even across different subject areas.

Imagine a unit that consists of a lesson on addition problems and a subtraction problem lesson. Students could connect these two lessons to a single essential question that prompts them to think about how these two basic operations are related to one another.

For example: *Why are opposites so important in mathematics?*

This question challenges students to form meaning and make connections between the steps involved in addition problems and a given subtraction problem. Addition and subtraction are no longer seen as permanent basic operations, but rather opposite sides of the same coin.

## 20 Examples of Math Essential Questions

There are many different ways that students and teachers can ask math essential questions in the classroom. In my experience, I find the best approach is to start with a specific math concept. I then expand further to focus on the concept in general. From there, I ask about connections to other mathematics concepts or math in the real world.

In the example above, addition and subtraction were the specific concepts before generalizing to *opposites.* From there, we ask about their role in mathematics in general.

Check out the following 20 examples of math essential questions across various math subject areas!

- How can mathematics be used to understand and compare real world scenarios?
- How can mathematics be used to describe patterns and make predictions?
- What mathematical tools are available to help us make good decisions in the real world?
- What approach do effective problem solvers use?
- How does mathematics help develop strong communication?

## Examples of Essential Questions for Geometry

- How do diagrams help us make sense of real world problems?
- How does proving theorems deepen our understanding of geometry?
- What makes geometry postulates, theorems, and properties so important in mathematics?
- How are geometric properties useful in modeling and describing real world phenomena?
- How can two-dimensional shapes be used to visualize and understand three-dimensional shapes?
- Why is accuracy important when using measurement?

## Examples of Essential Questions for Algebra

- How can equations be used to solve real-word problems?
- How are solutions to equations and inequalities both similar and different?
- How are patterns useful in the real world?
- How accurate are mathematical models, and can they be used in real life?

## Examples of Essential Questions for Data and Probability

- Why is data collected, and how is it used?
- How reliable are conclusions that are made from analyzing data?
- How much confidence do we need to have in a mathematical conclusion?
- How can probability be used to predict the likelihood of a real world event?
- Should statistics always be trusted?

## Using Math Essential Questions

There are many different ways that essential questions can be used in a mathematics classroom. Teachers that are looking for bulletin board ideas in their classroom will find value in placing a unitâ€™s essential question in a highly visible area of the classroom. Other teachers use these questions as reflective journal prompts to help students consolidate their learning at the end of a lesson.

Regardless of how they are used, math essential questions are a powerful tool that can help students deepen and enrich their learning of mathematics. When used correctly, these powerful questions can help students gain an entirely new appreciation for mathematical knowledge and its use in their lives.

So next time a student asks for examples of algebra in everyday life, turn it into an essential question conversation!

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