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  • Jenn Davis

Creating a Culture of Inquiry in Math

Updated: May 19, 2021

We are a team of educators teaching in community and learning with grade 4/5 students and with each other. For the past 3 years, we have been been really interested in how we might inspire children to think rather than simply to do.

To that end, we have been using an inquiry based learning approach throughout our day. We have been asking our students to think about: Who am I as a reader? Who am I as a writer? Who am I as an inquirer?

However, when it came to math, and 'who am I as a mathematician?', we still felt that we had a lot of learning and growing to do. It seemed like our students were still relying on us for the 'right answers' and many of them were experiencing math anxiety and felt that they just weren't 'math people.'

We started to recognize that we were feeling uneasy with how we were teaching math.

We were teaching math the way we always had. We were teaching math the way we had learned math ourselves.

It was becoming clear to us that although we truly believe that:

  • our students are capable, curious, creative, and courageous

  • relationships connect and support everyone and are necessary for our learning to thrive

  • all children are capable of mathematical thinking and understanding

... the ways we were teaching and assessing Math were not lining up with our beliefs.

This made us very curious. We were wondering how we could create the same culture of thinking and curiosity in math that we were creating in all of the other parts of our day.

So, together, we began to wonder:

  • What does numeracy look like in an inquiry classroom?

  • How might we put our students at the center of their thinking, learning, and feelings in math?

  • What is the power of collective knowledge building in Math?

  • How do we continue to develop learner agency in our students?

This is what we have been deeply exploring. We have learned from the experts, from our colleagues, and most importantly, from our students. Throughout this ongoing journey, we have been discovering a lot of things. We thought that you might be having some of the same questions that we have had, and decided to share our learning story with you.

Here is a video we created to share some of our thinking around this journey:

We have also created a website to share more details about our story and to make available some of the resources we have been using.

Our story has three parts:

  1. Reflecting on our Role as Math Educators

  2. How Are We Creating a Culture of Inquiry in Math?

  3. We Have Discovered That Math is Emotional

To read, watch, and explore our learning story so far, please go to our website.

Jenn Davis & Christine Wengenmeier

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