[REFLECTIONS] Inquiry Based Approach to Maths

That’s three weeks down and six more to go for our internship – and definitely the fastest three weeks in a long while. It has been smooth sailing so far with only a few lessons that have failed miserably. I guess that could also mean I’m not trying hard enough to put new ideas to practice and fail… So far I’ve had to take explicit rotations for Mathematics across all ability groups and it has been quite fun and challenging.

A few colleagues that I speak with are surprised when I say that differentiation in a class of 90 students is not easier nor harder than in a traditional classroom of 25 – 30 students. It all comes down to knowing your students. I’ve started keeping an observations log and a day book that I make notes in after each day to reflect on how lessons went and which students I might need to focus on in the classroom. So far I’ve found it quite difficult to complete this for all 90 students in the class but we have been splitting it up between the other teachers (and I must admit I’ve slacked off a little with this).

Reflections on my Mathematics lessons on Length and Area so far:

Taking a Inquiry Based Learning approach to my mathematics lessons, I attempted to set problems and/or driving questions with real life applications. For example, as an extension for the real-life application of area and perimeter and to introduce students to larger units of measurement (hectares), I set the problem of “Should schools with a greater number of students have a greater area to play and learn?”. I started with breaking down the question and brainstorming with students how we could explore this problem. Student responses included:

  • Go to different schools in the area and measure the areas using a Trundle Wheel or tape measure
  • Ask our friends at the other schools to tell us how big their school is
  • Ask our friends at school to count how many students there are at their school
  • Use a map to measure the sides

I introduced students to Google Maps Measurement (Right Click + Measure) where they were able to measure the approximate dimensions of schools and provided them with a number of schools around the area (with relatively regular shapes for measurement). The students were then split off into groups to explore how they could calculate the area and perimeter of the schools.

Students were then split into pairs to work on their laptops to complete the inquiry, and of course – the Google Maps measurement tool didn’t work with Internet Explorer… so we had to go to plan B and work off the Chrome browser on the IWB as a class which was a little slower, but in the end, encouraged more discussion as students were performing their measurements and calculations.

Finally, making use of MySchool (WOW!) in the classroom, students were able to search up how many students were enrolled in those schools.

The consolidating activity was a discussion on their findings and it was quite surprising some of the reasons the students discussed, which included funding, allocation of resources and an appreciation of the school’s area to learn and play in comparison to some other school’s in the area, which they initially thought was comparably small in area. Students even questioned whether the measurements in Google Maps were correct (accurate?), which then led us outside to measure the dimensions of the school using trundle wheels to test their inquiry.

Some of the other problems across the different class groups included:

  • How can we design a communal lunch table for the class that has space for the greatest amount of food? Or alternatively, the least amount of food? (Adapted from (Middle Ability)
  • How can we measure the perimeter and area of our class balcony? (Middle Ability)
  • How can we measure the time it takes for us to walk 1km using only the space under the COLA? (Lower Ability)

What worked:

  • Students were engaged in the use of technology and new ways of applying their knowledge of area and perimeter to a problem that faces school’s today
  • Students used higher order thinking and had to think ‘outside the box’ to engage in more in depth inquiry into the problem
  • Students applied what they learnt previously in calculating the area and perimeter of irregular shaped objects.
  • Students gained an appreciation of the school and applied their understanding of mathematics to get there (which I thought was pretty special!)

What didn’t work and reflections on what could be done better next time:

  • I wasn’t able to apply this problem across all students in the class which meant the lower ability group didn’t get the opportunity to explore this. Sometimes I feel like I need to find a balance in planning for the the three different groups and differentiating the types of problems I give to each group
  • I’ve implemented fewer inquiry based problems with my lower ability group which makes me feel like they are missing out.
  • Given this cohort, I felt that sometimes I had to tell the students and push them down a certain direction of inquiry for them to be able to understand how to solve the problem rather than letting them work it out for themselves. Not sure whether I should step back and give them more time or if this guidance is actually required as this moves towards the path of more teacher led instruction and away from Self Directed Learning.
  • Check whether the online resources work across all browsers – always have a Plan B!
  • I came up with the problems so there was really no student say in their learning (oops). I could ask students to come up with their own problems they would like to solve in applying their learning of length and area

And now, time to start planning for the next three weeks of rotations – History!



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