Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Inquiry Based Math

I spent the day in math training... and I liked it! (Those of you who know me are laughing, right?) I have this overwhelming love of literacy. But, this year, I set a personal goal to improve my teaching in the area of math. Thanks to three of my colleagues, who are the fabulous facilitators for our math group, we had the kind of day where you leave wondering, "Why can't all of our professional development days be like this?". Another colleague in my building was brave enough to allow our whole group (15 teachers) to observe a math lesson in her room. It was such a powerful experience! I had a tremendous amount of respect for this teacher before today's observation, but I left feeling amazed, inspired and grateful for the chance to see her in action.

Our math group focuses on inquiry based teaching methods. We are trying to plan lessons and use teaching strategies that help students improve their problem solving skills and develop their mathematical thinking skills. During the lessons I've been working on, my role is to challenge the students with a problem and then use inquiry based questions that encourage the children to explore, explain and discuss their thinking.

My most recent lesson was based on the book The Midnight Farm. The story is about all the animals a boy and his mother see on a farm. I challenged my students to figure out how many animals the boy and his mother saw all together in the story. My students used the data collection sheet that I made (with their clipboards) to record the numbers for each animal as I read the story.

I asked my students to represent their thinking with a picture and to "prove it" with numbers. I also asked them to write down the mathematical strategies they used to solve the problem. You can click on the pictures below to download the forms I used. The data collection sheet is specific to this book, but the other two pages are generic enough to use for any problem. 

That's it... my first math post!  Happy Wednesday!


  1. I love love love the frog!!!!!


  2. I should mention the cute little frogs are from Scrappin' Doodles!

  3. This is awesome! My goal next year is to improve my math teaching skills as well! I've never heard of this book, but I'm adding it to my B & N shopping cart right now!

  4. Kimberly- what was the name of the training that you did?

  5. The training that I'm taking is called Studying Mathematics from the Student Perspective. It's taught by a coordinator from our local ISD and we are taking it for graduate credit through Madonna University (which is in Michigan). The activity above is one I adapted from an idea in the book Math and Literature by Marilyn Burns and Stephanie Sheffield. It's a great book with lots of similar activities based on picture books.

  6. Great idea! I am presenting a math inquiry lesson to my colleagues and plan on using your idea. Do you have student work samples you can share? In particular, "this is a picture of mythinking".