Learning Mathematics Using an Inquiry-Based Approach

Written by Julie Julian, Regional Instructional Coach. PD was from an IB Mathematics Online Workshop
When mathematics is taught in relevant, real-life contexts students acquire their mathematical understanding by constructing their own meaning with increasing levels of abstraction. The way students learn mathematics can described in the following way:
Constructing Meaning· Based on previous experience and understanding· Active learning through interactions with objects (manipulatives) and ideas· Evolves through experiences, connections, conversations, and reflections· Interpretations conform to present understanding or generates new understanding
Transferring Meaning· Once ideas are constructed about a mathematical concept understanding can be transferred into symbols(pictures, diagrams, modelling with concrete objects, mathematical notations)· Give opportunities to describetheir understanding using their own symbolic notation before transferring to the conventional mathematical notation
Applying with Understanding· Learners demonstrate or act on their understanding through authentic activities, hands-on problem solving, and realistic situations· learners explain their ideas, theories, and results both orally and in writing· invite constructive feedback to move further forward in their learning/understanding
Inquiry-Based Environment· good questions (pose & respond)· make conjectures, share wonders· collaborate to explore ideas· plan & monitor own learning/inquiry· have access to a variety of resources· use technology· shared reasoning· develop proofs
The inquiry process moves students from a current level of understanding to a deeper level of understanding. However, there are some occasions when it is more beneficially for students to be given strategiesfor learning math skills in order to progress towards deeper understanding. Regardless, an inquiry-based environment helps foster mathematical skills, knowledge, and understanding.

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