Who am I?
I work as a Year Three teacher in a small inner-city Brisbane catholic school. In my classroom I have verified students, students with additional learning or social and emotional needs, and students with a wide range of literacy and numeracy skills.
My current understanding of inquiry learning
My current understanding of inquiry learning is that it is student-driven, question-based style of learning, where either the students or the teacher poses questions and students must investigate to find an answer or solution. I understand that there can be different levels of teacher support in the inquiry process and that these result in different types of inquiry.
While I feel I have some understanding of the process on an academic level, my experience with implementing inquiry learning is somewhat limited, and I have had varying experiences. In the past I have used structured inquiry units, such as those found in the Primary Connections resources, and found these to be successful in teaching scientific inquiry skills. Students always dive into these units with gusto, but they can lose interest as they go on. There is little flexibility in the content or opportunity for student choice, and I always feel as though I’m too pressed for time covering all the content of the Australian Curriculum to allow the unit to extend past its planned end.
On the other hand, I’ve had some very successful experiences with inquiry learning in History and Geography and in Religion. I’ve seen how engaged all students can be in these subjects when they follow their own choice of research question, and there are always so many opportunities to extend and support in a meaningful context, as well as many moments where cross-curricular skills can be taught.
So my big successes with inquiry learning come when students are chasing a knowledge goal – to find out something new or to find an answer to a question. When the focus of my units slip too much towards learning skills, the interest is lost. Perhaps I need to learn better ways of weaving these skills into my units.
What I want to know
What do I do with a subject like Mathematics then, a subject which I see almost all skills based?
My school uses textbooks to teach Mathematics. Its the type of text book where there is a different topic taught or practised each day, and then built on again later. Sounds great in theory but if you asked me what we were learning in Maths at the moment, all I could say is “everything” and if you asked me why, I could tell you “it’s the next page”. Its probably what my students would say too. If you asked them how they were going, they might tell you what mark they got on the Maths test they get twice a term, and this would tell them that they were either good or bad at Maths.
It leaves me wondering “why” a lot. Why do I teach these skills in isolation? Why should Maths be about learning how to do Maths and not about how you can use it? Why can’t it be exciting and purposeful? Why should a mark inform a child’s opinion of their own abilities in Maths?
I need and want to change the way I’m teaching Mathematics, but I just dont know how. I am hoping that I can find a more rich and engaging way of teaching and learning in Mathematics, through inquiry learning, that will help my students to find purpose and enthusiasm in their Maths learning.
To do this, I’m going on an information hunt. My initial questions for searching are:
- How can the Australian Curriculum for Year 3 Mathematics be taught through Inquiry Learning?
- How can a mathematics teacher differentiate for students in need of extension or support in an inquiry learning experience?
- How can diagnostic, formative and summative assessment be undertaken in an inquiry learning experience in Mathematics?
I am looking forward to refining these questions and finding out more about Inquiry learning in Mathematics, and how I can apply it to support and encourage my own students in their learning journeys.