Creativity as a function of problem-solving expertise: posing new problems through investigations

Haim Elgrably, Roza Leikin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study was inspired by the following question: how is mathematical creativity connected to different kinds of expertise in mathematics? Basing our work on arguments about the domain-specific nature of expertise and creativity, we looked at how participants from two groups with two different types of expertise performed in problem-posing-through-investigations (PPI) in a dynamic geometry environment (DGE). The first type of expertise—MO—involved being a candidate or a member of the Israeli International Mathematical Olympiad team. The second type—MM—was comprised of mathematics majors who excelled in university mathematics. We conducted individual interviews with eight MO participants who were asked to perform PPI in geometry, without previous experience in performing a task of this kind. Eleven MMs tackled the same PPI task during a mathematics test at the end of a 52-h course that integrated PPI. To characterize connections between creativity and expertise, we analyzed participants’ performance on the PPI tasks according to proof skills (i.e., auxiliary constructions, the complexity of posed tasks, and correctness of their proofs) and creativity components (i.e., fluency, flexibility and originality of the discovered properties). Our findings demonstrate significant differences between PPI by MO participants and by MM participants as reflected in the more creative performance and more successful proving processes demonstrated by MO participants. We argue that problem posing and problem solving are inseparable when MO experts are engaged in PPI.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)891-904
Number of pages14
JournalZDM - International Journal on Mathematics Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Geometry proof problems
  • Mathematical creativity
  • Mathematics expertise
  • Problem posing through investigations

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Mathematics


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