Levels of mathematical creativity in model-eliciting activities

Helena Margaretha Wessels


The ability to think creatively and solve problems is regarded as crucial for economic and personal success. The traditional approach in classrooms is not conducive to mathematical creativity, and prospective teachers should be exposed to alternative problem solving activities through which mathematical knowledge, competencies and creativity can be developed. Research studies have pointed out the possibilities and successes of a modelling approach in which complex, open problems (or model-eliciting problems) are used to develop meaningful mathematical knowledge and prepare learners for everyday life, as well as for tertiary studies and their future occupations. Model-eliciting activities (MEAs) do not only develop mathematical knowledge, but also creativity. Five hundred and one pre-service Foundation Phase teachers completed different model-eliciting activities (MEAs) in a longitudinal project over a period of two years. The purpose is to develop and consolidate their own mathematical knowledge, and at the same time to develop creativity and modelling competencies. The ultimate purpose of the project is to prepare pre-service teachers to use mathematical modelling to develop creativity in young children aged six to nine. Through solving MEAs learners also build and consolidate their mathematical knowledge and improve their own problem-solving abilities. A framework with four criteria for the identification of creativity was successfully used to evaluate levels of creativity in the solutions offered to the MEAs. Pre-service teachers’ final models displayed reasonably consistent levels of creativity regarding the four criteria. Their motivation to solve MEAs and create multiple, original and useful – therefore creative – solutions also increased over the period of their exposure to modelling tasks.



model-eliciting activities, mathematical creativity, mathematical modelling

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