Friday, 15 November 2013

Inquiry-Based Learning+Open-Ended Math (Student Choice+Student Voice)=Engagement!

Differentiation and engagement: two big concepts for me in my class this year. When I am able to ensure that both are a part of my teaching, then I know that students will have opportunities to be successful. 

Over the last couple of years I have been using more open-ended math questions. These are math questions that have more than one possible solution, or more than one possible way to solve the problem. It gives students choice, and that allows them to really think about the math they know, and what mathematical strategies they can use to solve real-life problems. 

For me, the best part of open-ended math questions is the multiple levels from which students can engage with the problem. Everyone can get the answer, using their own level of ability, and feel successful in their mathematical learning.
For example: If I want to know what two numbers could be subtracted to equal 123, I could get two very different answers from students:

  234                                   9, 012
111        or                      - 8,889
  123                                       123

I have found this increases the confidence of students who would  be overwhelmed by a page of 30 math facts, and take over an hour to complete the page. They can do the math, but not as quickly as other students. In the same way, I don't have students done in ten minutes, claiming they are bored. Everyone is engaged at their level.

This year inquiry-based learning has really expanded the opportunities in math. Open-ended questions have become even more open-ended as we use more personal choice and technology to create, remix, and design our math work. Students love having the choice, and when the opportunity is available, they will stretch their thinking with topics that are of high interest.

Today I posted a math problem on the whiteboard.

                "The answer is 7323.
             What was the question?"

Everyone decided what their question would be about. Then they searched for images using CC Search. The math was figured out on scrap paper, on whiteboards, or directly on devices. 

One of the added bonuses with BYOD and technology in general is that paper use is greatly reduced. I have seen on Twitter that some classes have measured how much paper they have reduced over a year, and calculated how many trees they have saved. It sounds like something we might like to do at the end of the year, maybe we can plant a tree to celebrate. In our class this year, variety is the spice of life. Everyday is different, and that is starting to become the "same old, same old".

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