Running your first inquiry

posted 22 Jun 2013, 03:10 by Unknown user   [ updated 31 Aug 2014, 02:02 ]
Terry Patterson, a teacher in London, contacted @inquirymaths on twitter about a prompt she had devised and used with her year 8 low ability class. It was her first experience of an inquiry lesson. Terry commented on the emotional impact an inquiry can have. The students' questions are "moving and revealing. They loved running the lesson ... I was quite choked up after my first lesson yesterday - an eye-opener." This reminded me of an inquiry lesson I did on interview. The regular teacher, who observed the lesson, said later in her feedback to me how proud she was at the maturity and depth of the students' comments and at the way they had risen to the challenge.  

The prompt Terry used (right) gave her an insight into the students' 
level of understanding: "Every question they posed
revealed the group's profound bafflement." The questions included:
    • Why does 1 - 1 = 1?
    • Why does 2 - 3 = 6?
    • Is it to do with times tables?
Our discussion continued around the issue of context. This remains a concern of many maths departments when the GCSE assessment criteria require students to answer 'functional' and 'contextual' questions. My answer is that prompts create a context of inquiry. This is not 'real-life' (which, anyway, is often code for a question that has nothing to do with the lives of the children in your classroom), but is far more meaningful to your students because the inquiry develops through their own ideas and activity.
Overall, the energy and excitement that inquiry lessons can generate came through Terry's comments and it was a pleasure to discuss her experiences.