The Relationship of Affect and Creativity in Mathematics: Author Q&A
The Relationship of Affect and Creativity in Mathematics: Author Q&A
PUBLISHED: Monday, March 15, 2021 by Andilynn Feddeler

The Relationship of Affect and Creativity in Mathematics explores the five legs of creativity—Iconoclasm, Impartiality, Investment, Intuition, and Inquisitiveness—as they relate to mathematical giftedness. Learn more about the book and how affective components impact students’ creative processes and products in this interview with the authors, Scott A. Chamberlin, Ph.D., and Eric L. Mann, Ph.D.

Q: What are the five legs of creativity? How do these relate to the field of mathematics?

In this book, authors explore the relationship between mathematical creativity and mathematical affect. For many, mathematical creativity is viewed as a phenomenon that seems to emerge, somewhat by happenstance. The Five Legs of Creativity Theory draws on the research from several areas, offering insight into the opportunities that mathematics educators can take to encourage creative thinking (process) and ultimately solutions (products). In particular, controlling the classroom climate and types of classroom tasks utilized can dramatically enhance the likelihood of mathematical creativity surfacing.

Mathematicians view mathematics as a creative process. In the Five Legs of Creativity Theory, teachers have more control over the creativity puzzle than perhaps they believed to be the case. It is also important to realize that creativity is only one piece of a comprehensive mathematics classroom. The theory offers a framework for intentional design of learning experiences in ways that elicit mathematical creativity.


Q: Why are many students underidentified in the area of creativity in mathematics? How does this book aim to change that?

There is no one answer to why students’ mathematical creativity is underidentified; it is likely the result of several reasons. First, the means to identify mathematical creativity is not widely available or at an advanced enough state to be reliable. Second, assessing mathematical creativity does not easily lend itself to selected responses or multiple-choice items. Third, if mathematics standards mention creativity, it only appears as a desirable byproduct, not a learning outcome. In short, if an emphasis is not tested, then attention will not be invested in it in the classroom. Fourth, despite considerable amounts of knowledge in mathematics content and pedagogy, some district and state experts lack sufficient knowledge about mathematical creativity’s nature to make it an emphasis with any degree of regularity in mathematics classrooms.

A significant emphasis in this book is to invite a wider audience into the discussions on mathematical creativity than currently exists. Some mathematics educators are uninformed about the construct because they have not had reliable access to discussions or reading about it. For this reason, this book, although deeply ensconced in literature, is written in a highly conversational manner so that academics can respect the formal nature of the theory provided. At the same time, practitioners can appreciate its pragmatic considerations.


Q: How is this book organized? What is included in each chapter?

Following the book’s introduction, in the first five chapters authors explain the five legs of creativity (Iconoclasm, Impartiality, Investment, Intuition, and Inquisitiveness). These five legs are affective states in which mathematics educators can make effective changes in students’ ways of approaching mathematical tasks to enhance the likelihood of mathematical creativity emerging. In chapters 6 and 7, mathematics tasks and classroom climate are discussed, respectively, so that readers can realize the Five Legs Theory’s effect in a practical manner. The final chapter is written specifically for mathematics teachers, as the presentation of theory can seem tedious without practical implications. Hallmarks of each chapter are (1) that the fundamental principles of each chapter are predicated on empirical research, and (2) a consideration of theory with practical mathematics examples in the classroom.


Q: Who is your ideal audience for this book?

The book was written explicitly with ostensibly two competing audiences in mind. The word ostensibly is purposefully used because what may appear to be the case is not entirely true. Mathematics education researchers (academics) and mathematics education practitioners (teachers) are not, in fact, opposed constituents. There is a symbiotic relationship between the two stakeholders because academics generate theory, and practitioners are the individuals that test the theory, providing feedback to refine the theory further. As theory guides practice, practice helps (re)shape theory. Hence, the book provides a theory heavily dependent upon empirical research. However, practitioners will ultimately be the judges of whether the theory holds merit. This book was written for both academics and teachers. The book’s academic components are written in a manner accessible to teachers, and the practitioner parts will engage academics.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from this book? 

This question may change depending on the user. Still, in general, it is hoped that the proposed theory, and accordingly the book, will (re)generate interest in the construct of mathematical creativity, with an ultimate objective of extending the overall amount of mathematical creativity among aspiring mathematicians. We hope that the knowledge gained from reading the book will motivate mathematics educators to be purposeful in their interactions with learners so that students can show increased productivity and develop a deeper appreciation of mathematics. 


Scott A. Chamberlin, Ph.D., and Eric L. Mann, Ph.D., have researched and discussed affect and creativity in mathematics for almost 2 decades. Having graduated from two of the top graduate programs in gifted education in the world (Purdue University and University of Connecticut respectively), they are considered some of the foremost experts in the field.