For a very long time I have been reflecting on the following question:
How can I extend inquiry teaching and learning into other subject areas, outside of the teaching of science and social studies (out of the Program of Inquiry of the PYP)?
Along with this, another reflection that I have had many times regards the teaching of mathematics, as for me this has been an ongoing challenge that I have eagerly been trying to surpass by continuing with my professional development.
Because of this, one of my personal projects during the 2013 involved the creation of a Unit of Inquiry in mathematics.
I had the opportunity of working with a math coach in Santiago College, and therefore took the advantage of the support given by her and the co-teacher I had at the time, with whom I shared many of these reflections. Together, we set out to create a Unit of Inquiry to teach students about the base ten number system. Among our main objectives, was our central idea or big understanding:
Tens and ones are a way to represent numbers, that we can use to solve everyday problems.
As for our outcomes of objetives, we were looking for students to...
We gave much importance to the fact that we wanted to students to apply their understandings and skills, as we did not want them to merely learn facts and procedures in math, but meaningfully understand how they can use these procedures and skills in real life.
Because of this, we carefully selected the math standards and outcomes that we would be needing to help students develop their understandings, as well as the summative assessment activity through which they would demonstrate these.
At the end of the unit we wanted the students to solve a real - world problem, using the skills and understandings developed. We decided to take advantage on a campaign the school was having to collect different things for a particular school in Haiti which had been terribly affected by an earthquake. We asked the students to collect different school supplies which we then had to sort and group before delivering them. Through this task, students had to use their understanding of number, quantity and the base ten system.
You can view a detailed plan of this activity here: Math Unit of Inquiry Performance Task. The following are samples of the students work regarding this assessment:
Throughout the unit, students had the opportunity to explore their prior knowledge about numbers, the base ten system, and how to apply these understandings to their real lives.
We also had a variety of learning engagements in which students could reflect on the use of numbers greater than ten, practice math skills such as adding and subtracting numbers greater than ten, and apply this learning to different real - world situations.
This unit of inquiry was not just an incredible learning opportunity for the students, it was also a big eye - opener for the co-teacher I was working with, the math coach, and me. We learned that it is posible to have units of inquiry outside of the Programme of Inquiry of the PYP, and that learning through inquiry, though it is true that it takes more time, is an excellent way for students to acquire important skills in every content area, gain deep understandings on different subjects, and most importantly, understand how they can use these in their real lives.