Thursday, 11 October 2012

Framing Math Around A Question

While I'm incorporating inquiry in Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science, among other areas, I promised myself that I wouldn't "reinvent the wheel" with math, this year.  I promised myself that I'd follow the text and teacher's guides, while using standards-based assessment, then think about shaking the format up next year.

I can't do anything the easy way, it seems.  In this case, that's worked out well!  I couldn't wrap my head around meeting the needs of so many learners while working on one skill or theme at a time.  So, I decided that I needed to reshape the way I was approaching math.

The night before I was about to being a math unit with my (rather diverse) group of grade six and seven students, I decided that I just couldn't start with a chapter and work through it.  I'd done a basic math assessment and a few other math activities to see where the students were with a variety of skills and was about to start working my way through the text while incorporating some hands-on activities and project-based learning along the way. 

I posed the following question to my students the next morning:
“If we were to create a proposal for a (fictitious) grade 6/7 student lounge at Webster’s Corners Elementary, what would we need to know?  What math would be involved?”

They came up with a list of concepts and I've been guiding them through, adjusting for a variety of levels along the way.  It's been great to have them work through the problem and have a common goal while working at a variety of different levels and PLOs.  They have been engaged with visualizing their own student lounges and this seems to have been enough of a "hook" to get everybody involved.

I guess I've jumped into problem-based learning in math class!

If you'd like to know more, I've posted a few (ok...many!) more details here on our class blog and will hopefully update this blog with a summary of events/activities at some point.  I'm constantly adjusting the "flow" of this project as we go, depending on my students' skills, needs, and interests, so I'm not sure if anything I've done would be useful to anybody else but I'm excited about it and hope to share more later on.  Also, if you know of any similar projects, or other teachers using this approach, I'd love to hear about them!  I'm sure that I've been reading and hearing about problem-based math here and there but had ignored most of it until now!