How is maths creative?

Most people do not think of maths as a creative subject. And that is the problem. Many children find maths uninspiring at best – and at its worst, boring. And if children are bored and disengaged with anything – learning does not happen. It is no surprise that many children struggle to succeed in maths.

Now, let’s think about creativity. If we asked children which subjects in school they find most creative – what might they say? Art? Music? Craft? Story writing? Drama? Probably. These are the subjects we traditionally think of as creative. Why? Is it because these subjects draw on the imagination more than others? Creativity is surely to do with making something new or putting things together in new and innovative ways.

Now let’s think about maths. Numeracy is all about patterns and sequences and making connections between concepts, as well as the challenge of problem solving. Add to this the ‘deeper learning’ and mastery that is the hallmark of the new curriculum – and we can surely identify much that is creative. Deeper learning invites pupils to dive deeply into all subjects, including maths, to explore their depths. In order to dive deeply into learning children must be allowed to explore and come up with ideas of their own, rather than being told. They need to ask questions, especially ‘why’? Creativity in maths arises from groups of children being challenged to solve problems in different ways, using different methods. Nothing destroys the potential for mathematical creativity more than children being given one single method for solving problems. Mastery also depends on children being encouraged to dive deeply and explore the inner workings of mathematics. Mastery is a step beyond being secure and confident in maths. The goal of mastery depends on children finding the creativity in maths. Creativity in maths happens when children are engaged, excited and inspired to find things out. So is maths creative? It can be.

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