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Inquiry-Based Teaching February 12, 2014

Posted by jennienorgaard in EMTH 350.
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The first time we experienced an inquiry-based lesson in EMTH 350 was when Kathy gave us the lesson on circles. She brought up the idea with a problem she had with finding certain angles on her bicycle wheel. From there we worked on an activity where we, the students, came up with the concepts of the circle. We discussed amongst our groups while trying to answer the questions provided to us on the worksheets. This was the very first time we learned/experienced an inquiry lesson. From here, we learned more about inquiry lessons throughout our required readings in the textbooks, the different articles we had to read, the activities we did in class and the Teaching Mathematics Through Inquiry (TMTI) assignment we have been working on with our partners for the last couple weeks. Apart from this, I found that when we watched our videos of our own inquiry lessons that we presented to the class and critiqued our lessons it helped me to get a deeper understanding of the significance of the project. After the lesson I thought it had went well apart from the fact that we thought we were out of time and didn’t get to end our lesson like we had originally planned. However, after watching the video of it, I started to pick out things that could have been done differently to improve the lesson even more. Not only did I notice things that could have been done differently in my lesson after watching it, but it also states the importance it is to do this in the article, Understanding change through a high school mathematics teacher’s journey. This article states, “Schön (1983) suggest that teachers could orchestrate their own change if they are helped to develop a ‘stance’ of looking at their own practice by analyzing, adapting, and always challenging their assumptions, in a self-sustaining cycle of reflection on their own theory and practice, learning from one problem to inform the next problem. Reflection enables practitioners to assess, understand, and learn through their experiences.” (p. 3) By doing this, this ensures that the future lessons you make on the same topic are that much better! From the article, we learn that inquiry is  “learner-focused, question driven, investigation/research, communication, reflection, and collaboration.” (p.4) Through this article, we learn that inquiry lessons brought a different idea of what Brea’s role as a teacher really was. It talks about how she “transformed her classroom discourse by listening to students differently, as described in her story. She began to give voice to, or recognize the voice of, students, thus empowering them. She shifted her concern from being the expert voice to a concern for the authenticity of students’ voice. (p.11) From here we begin to understand that inquiry based teaching is all about student based learning and helping students connect with mathematics in a deeper way. This way students are not just memorizing concepts/ ideas and just regurgitating information on exams to do well in school. They actually start to understand the concepts and can transfer this new knowledge outside of the math classroom. 

After reading this article, I still strongly believe that the way a teacher presents a lesson is based strongly on his or her own mathematical beliefs. These mathematical beliefs are strongly influenced by the different math experiences one encounters in their life. For example, you are going to teach lessons based on how you learned the different concepts and what you enjoyed about math in and through school. Teachers normally won’t attempt to teach a subject in a way that they could not learn the material themselves when they were the students. Usually whichever method gets your point across the quickest and in the simplest way is what we strive for. My beliefs about mathematics teaching and learning are still the same as I stated that, it is important to understand how to properly do mathematics and not just know how to come up with the final answer. However, I did state that “so in the end, how we decide to go about teaching the material is ultimately up us and what our mathematical beliefs are.” which I kind of disagree with after reading this article. To an extent yes, we will be teaching what we want and based on our mathematical beliefs but ultimately it is important to teach to the students and not what we believe. This is crucial as we are there to help the learning of our students and not preach what we believe and agree with in mathematics. It is important to keep in mind what our own thoughts are about mathematics but I think it is more important that we teach to ensure our students are learning and understanding the concepts regardless if how we have to teach the content is not how we perceive math to be taught/learned. So in the end, my beliefs on mathematics teaching and learning are generally the same after reading this article. However, there are some key points I would add into my original thoughts on mathematics teaching and learning.

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