I have decided to write about something that is close to my heart for my final blog and that is maths inquiry.
As a student I found maths incredibly difficult and was often frustrated and defeated by the maths that we did in class. I would often find that while I was able to complete an exercise in class I could not apply it in an exam. This is because I was unable to apply my mathematical understanding, because I didn’t really have it and because I never understood any real purpose to what I was learning.
Thankfully for students today attitudes have changed to a certain extent and we realise the importance of students seeing the relevance of what they are learning and being able to apply their understanding. This does not mean skills should not be taught but they can often be taught in the context of a student inquiry.
As Jo Boaler, a professor of maths at Stanford University says:
My research on math learners suggests that when students think they’re in class to learn — to explore ideas and think freely — they understand more and achieve at higher levels than when they think the point is to get questions right.
Students need the opportunity to explore maths concepts and to be driven by their own curiosity. One great blog that I follow is by an Australian primary teacher working in Switzerland Graeme Anshaw . His blog Enquiry-based maths is a fantastic source for teachers who want to bring maths inquiry into their classroom. Like our school he uses the PYP Maths planners to plan and teach mathematics. Rather than working through a textbook which for most kids is pretty boring and is really only aimed at the middle achievers of the class.
By using the planners we can develop a central idea, get the students tuned in, give them opportunities to develop their understanding further and to explore their understanding and ideas in greater depth.
We begin the unit with a Central Idea and then use the PYP Concepts to develop questions that they might have to help drive their inquiry later on. Here is an example from our data handling unit:
The students are given tuning in activities that help them to understand the skills and concepts needed. They will generally work in differentiated groups that have been created from the information I have gained from pre and formative assessments. They are given opportunties to explore one or more of the concept questions or any other questions that may have come up through the inquiry. Often the work will be integrated with our unit of inquiry.
Other great sites and blogs that I follow to improve my maths teaching:
As teachers we have to change both our mindset and the students mindset so that all students can be mathematicians and realsie that they can do mathematical thinking. Jo Boaler’s work on maths and mindsets is changing the way that we view mathematics.
Technology means that as teachers we can keep up to date with new ideas, share ideas and find many different ways of improving our teaching. Just like COETAIL!