Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Math Inquiry

So, I've been trying something new in my math block lately. Used to, I'd start off with introducing the Essential Question (How do you multiply fractions? for example) then get right in to modeling the strategies and procedures, followed by guided practice and independent work based on what I showed them. Sounds like a typical math lesson, right?

When I visited Lori Conrad's 5th grade in Denver, CO I saw her using inquiry strategies within her content areas, specifically social studies. I thought, 'Oh wow, I can totally do that!'. It seemed to just make sense.

I've been starting out with posing the Essential Question still, and providing an example problem. My kiddos then have to brainstorm using their schema on ways they think we may be able to solve the problem. For example, last week we learned strategies for multiplying and dividing with fractions. They turned and talked to a partner about strategies they could try. Many of them suggested repeated addition and arrays, strategies we had learned for multiplying and dividing whole numbers.

We put their plans into action and tested out each idea. We discussed how we should set up the numberline, and what benchmarks to include. They decided to use 25s as our benchmarks, because it's like counting quarters. They knew that 25s were also fourths because there are 4 quarters in a dollar, so we labeled them as fourths since we were working with fractions.  We then used repeated addition on the numberlines to solve multiplying fractions, or repeated subtraction to solve dividing with fractions. We also looked closely at how to set up an array for multiplying fractions, which surprisingly went pretty well! We took what we know about how to draw fractions in rods, and simply "squished" them together! For example, drawing 3/5 as a row of 5 blocks with 3 colored in, then repeating that however many times you're multiplying. (See anchor chart pic if this isn't making sense lol).

The best Ah-Ha! moment was during lunch last week. We were eating outside since the weather was so nice, and I overheard some girls from another table talking about our math lesson. "I love the way Ms. McDonald is teaching math-it just makes so much sense! She doesn't just tell us how to figure it out like the other teachers did, she lets us try it together and we get to work out a bunch of ways to get the answer!" Best. Moment. Ever.


  1. My school uses the math program Investigations and that is exactly how they set up the lessons. I love letting the kids share their natural strategies as well as learning new methods. There is more than one way to learn math!