Why minimally different problems?

Since I started teaching three years ago, I’ve been well aware of the problems of traditional textbook exercises when introducing a class to a new concept, procedure. More often than not, textbook exercises became far too varied too quickly, with pupils becoming quickly unstuck, and it became difficult to identify the source of their confusion. Alternatively, it felt as though I was presenting students with ‘just more practice of the same’, which was deeply unsatisfactory (regardless of the prior attainment of the pupils).

Hence (and I am hugely indebted to Mr Barton and his book), creating sequences of intelligent, minimally varied practice questions seemed a reasonable step. When they are used to introduce pupils to a topic, they enable pupils to make connections and really focus on the underlying concept. The ones presented here are very much initial attempts – they are not a perfect model of how to write minimally varied exercises. All the same, I hope you find them of some use!

I am contactable at fortyninecubed (at) gmail . com, or on Twitter at @fortyninecubed.

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