Teachers’ views on creativity in mathematics education: an international survey


The survey described in this paper was developed in order to gain an understanding of culturally-based aspects of creativity associated with secondary school mathematics across six participating countries. All participating countries acknowledge the importance of creativity in mathematics, yet the data show that they take very different approaches to teaching creatively and enhancing students’ creativity. Approximately 1,100 teachers from six countries (Cyprus, India, Israel, Latvia, Mexico, and Romania) participated in a 100-item questionnaire addressing teachers’ conceptions about: (1) Who is a creative student in mathematics, (2) Who is a creative mathematics teacher, (3) In what way is creativity in mathematics related to culture, and (4) Who is a creative person. We present responses to each conception focusing on differences between teachers from different countries. We also analyze relationships among teachers’ conceptions of creativity and their experience, and educational level. Based on factor analysis of the collected data we discuss relevant relationships among different components of teachers’ conceptions of creativity as they emerge in countries with different cultures.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1


  1. Bishop, A. J. (1994). Cultural conflicts in mathematics education: developing a research agenda. For the Learning of Mathematics, 14(2), 15–18.

  2. Bloom, B. (1985). Developing talent in young people. New York: Ballantine.

  3. Bolden, D. S., Harries, A. V., & Newton, D. P. (2010). Pre-service primary teachers’ conceptions of creativity in mathematics. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 73(2), 143–157.

  4. Burton, L. (2001). Research mathematicians as learners—and what mathematics education can learn from them. British Educational Research Journal, 27, 589–599.

  5. Ervynck, G. (1991). Mathematical creativity. In D. Tall (Ed.), Advanced mathematical thinking (pp. 42–53). Dordrecht: Kluwer.

  6. Feldman, D. H. (1999). The development of creativity. In R. J. Sternberg (Ed.), Handbook of creativity (pp. 169–186). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

  7. Feldman, D. H., Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Gardner, H. (1994). Changing the world: A framework for the study of creativity. Westport, CT: Praeger/Greenwood.

  8. Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind. New York: Basic Books.

  9. Gardner, H. (1997). Extraordinary minds: Portraits of exceptional individuals and an examination of our extraordinariness. New York: Basic Books.

  10. Gruber, H. E. (1986). The self-construction of the extraordinary. In R. Sternberg & J. L. Davidson (Eds.), Conceptions of giftedness (pp. 247–263). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

  11. Guilford, J. P. (1967). The nature of human intelligence. New York: McGraw-Hill.

  12. Hadamard, J. (1954). The psychology of invention in the mathematical field. New York: Dover Publications.

  13. Hardy, G. H. (1940/1992). A mathematician’s apology. New York: Cambridge University Press. (reprint edition).

  14. Haylock, D. W. (1987). A framework for assessing mathematical creativity in school children. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 18(1), 59–74.

  15. Hilgard, E. (1980). The trilogy of mind: Cognition, affection, and conation. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 16, 107–117.

  16. Kattou, M., Kontoyianni, K., & Christou, C. (2009). Mathematical creativity through teachers’ perceptions. In M. Tzekaki, M. Kaldrimidou, & C. Sakonidis (Eds.), Proceedings of the 33rd conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (Vol. 3, pp. 297–304). Thessaloniki, Greece: PME.

  17. Leikin, R. (2009). Exploring mathematical creativity using multiple solution tasks. In R. Leikin, A. Berman, & B. Koichu (Eds.), Creativity in mathematics and the education of gifted students (pp. 129–145). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

  18. Leikin, R. (2010). Teaching mathematically gifted. Gifted Education International, 27, 161–175.

  19. Leikin, R. (2011). The education of mathematically gifted students: On some complexities and questions. Montana Mathematical Enthusiast Journal, 8, 167–188.

  20. Leikin, R., & A. Berman (Eds.). (2010). Intercultural aspects of creativity in mathematics: Challenges and barriers. Mediterranean Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 9(2) (special issue).

  21. Lev-Zamir, H., & Leikin, R. (2011). Creative mathematics teaching in the eye of the beholder: Focusing on teachers’ conceptions. Research in Mathematics Education, 13, 17–32.

  22. Lev-Zamir, H., & Leikin, R. (2012). Saying vs. doing: teachers’ conceptions of creativity in elementary mathematics teaching. ZDM—The International Journal on Mathematics Education, 45(4) (this issue).

  23. Liljedahl, P. (2009). In the words of the creators. In R. Leikin, A. Berman, & B. Koichu (Eds.), Creativity in mathematics and the education of gifted students (pp. 51–69). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

  24. Liljedahl, P., & Sriraman, B. (2006). Musings on mathematical creativity. For The Learning of Mathematics, 26, 20–23.

  25. Lithner, J. (2008). A research framework for creative and imitative reasoning. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 67(3), 255–276.

  26. Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus. (n.d., 2012). Mathematics Curriculum for Secondary Education. Accessed 3 October.

  27. Piirto, J. (1999). Talented children and adults: Their development and education (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.

  28. Schmidt, W. H., McKnight, C. C., Valverde, G. A., Houang, R. T., & Wiley, D. E. (1997). Many visions, many aims (Vol. 1). Dordrecht: Kluwer.

  29. Secretary of Public Education, Mexico. (2012a). Curriculum for basic education. Study plan for 2011—teacher’s guide. Accessed 3 October.

  30. Secretary of Public Education, Mexico. (2012b). Enciclomedia. Accessed 3 October.

  31. Secretary of Public Education, Mexico. (2012c). Telesecundaria. Accessed 3 October 2012.

  32. Shriki, A. (2009). Working like real mathematicians: Developing prospective teachers’ awareness of mathematical creativity through generating new concepts. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 73(2), 159–179. (online).

  33. Singer, M. (1999). The New National Curriculum (Authors: Ciolan, L., Crişan, A., Dvorski, M., Georgescu, D., Oghină, D., Sarivan, L., & Singer, M.). Bucharest: Prognosis.

  34. Singer, F. M., & Sarivan, L. (2011). Masterprof: A program to educate teachers for the knowledge society. In F. M. Singer & L. Sarivan (Eds.), ProcediaSocial and Behavioral Sciences, 11, 7–11.

  35. Singer, F. M., & Stoicescu, D. (2011). Using blended learning as a tool to strengthen teaching competences. Procedia Computer Science Journal, 3, 1527–1531.

  36. Singer, M., & Voica, C. (2004). Challenging the future: mathematics education in Romania between ideals and reality. Baia Mare: Cub, ICME-10.

  37. Sriraman, B. (2004). The characteristics of mathematical creativity. The Mathematics Educator, 14, 19–34.

  38. Sriraman, B. (2005). Are giftedness and creativity synonyms in mathematics? An analysis of constructs within the professional and school realms. The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education, 17, 20–36.

  39. Sternberg, R. J. (2000). Handbook of creativity. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

  40. Stigler, J. W., & Hiebert, J. (1999). The teaching gap. New York, NY: Free Press.

  41. Subotnik, R. F., Singer, F. M., & Leikin, R. (2010). Intercultural perspectives on creativity in school mathematics: the role of context, individual differences and motivation. Mediterranean Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 9(2), 11–39.

  42. Voica, C., & Singer, F. M. (2011). Using small scale projects as tools for changing the teaching paradigm. ProcediaSocial and Behavioural Sciences, 11, 200–204.

Download references


This project was made possible through the support of a Grant #13219 from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation. We would like to thank Dr. Raisa Guberman (Israel), Dr. Hana Lev-Zamir (Israel), Prof. Agnis Anjans (Latvia), Dr. Guadalupe Vadillo (Mexico), and Prof. Azhar Hussain (India) for their participation in the validation of the research tool used in this study and the data collection.

Author information

Correspondence to Roza Leikin.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Leikin, R., Subotnik, R., Pitta-Pantazi, D. et al. Teachers’ views on creativity in mathematics education: an international survey. ZDM Mathematics Education 45, 309–324 (2013) doi:10.1007/s11858-012-0472-4

Download citation


  • Teachers’ creativity
  • Students’ creativity
  • International perspective
  • Culturally related characteristics