Tips for implementing inquiry based maths in the primary classroom

By Anita Green

“The only way to learn mathematics is to do mathematics.” – Paul Halmos

Ever since I started teaching, I have always aimed to provide students with high-quality maths lessons that contain strong links to real-life contexts. Students need a range of hands-on experiences that engage them in challenging and meaningful activities.

When using an inquiry maths approach, all students can be working on the same task regardless of their prior experience or mathematical knowledge or skills. A task will have a common language and starting point, but differentiation can occur through:

• the arrangement of groups
• different entry and exit points
• use of questioning
• the range of strategies used to problem solve
• lesson structure.

Recently I visited a Year 3 classroom where I ran a lesson introducing the concept of division. We read The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins, a story that looks at sharing out cookies. With each ring of the doorbell, the cookies need to be shared among more people. After reading the story, students were given the following task to solve: If you had 24 lollies, how many people could you share them with evenly?

Students set about solving the problem. I observed a range of strategies being used by students across the room, such as:

• getting counters to act as the 24 lollies and sharing them out in various ways
• drawing groups in their workbooks to help solve the problem
• making links back to the book about ways of sharing, e.g. If everyone got one, how many people could each get one?
• making links to known times tables or factors
• using knowledge of division to find answers, e.g. knowing that 24 can’t be shared between 5.

Last year I came across the reSolve program. After reading about it I knew that this was something I wanted to be a part of. The reSolve: Mathematics by Inquiry program provides Australian schools with resources to help students learn mathematics in an innovative and engaging way. Inquiry-based learning is designed to activate students’ curiosity, rather than simply deliver information, and uses this curiosity as a tool to advance knowledge and handle complexity. The reSolve Protocol underpins all aspects of the project and sets out a vision for teaching and learning mathematics. It is organised around three focal points:

• reSolve mathematics is purposeful
• reSolve tasks are inclusive and challenging
• reSolve classrooms have a knowledge-building culture.

The Oxford Maths program also supports the inquiry maths approach by focusing on hands-on activities and putting maths problems into a real-life context. Differentiated learning paths allow students to access the curriculum at their point of need.

Teachers require good classroom management skills and professional support to successfully manage inquiry learning. The Oxford Maths program offers clear and comprehensive teacher support with engaging activities, links to outcomes and learning focuses, different strategies, explicit teaching and ideas for next steps.

Explore Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand’s Oxford Maths resources.

Share this post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *