Integrating Inquiry Based Math in the IB PYP

The Inquiry-Based Math Project in the IB PYP

Integrated maths inquiry, concept based maths, project based learning….it doesn’t matter what you call it, well designed projects support learning through a guided inquiry that has enough scope to ensure that maths concepts are approached authentically and with a student-led perspective. These projects naturally lend themselves to support all types and levels of learners. They are transdisciplinary in nature, allowing concepts and skills to be transferred and applied towards an end product that has largely been created with the children's voice as an obvious part of the process. They're open-ended enough to allow your students room to expand and direct the project yet structured enough to support those learners who aren’t quite ready to take that leap into independent inquiry.  As you watch the following video, where I share my strategies together with Parvana Guliyeva (an IB PYP grade 4 teacher, currently in Portugal) consider our transdisciplinary approach and how we plan to investigate through concepts and skills-based learning experiences, look for these 4 keys:

Four keys to look out for:

  1. The related concepts within your theme/inquiry: the global concepts or big ideas will be the focus of the inquiry.
  2. Maths concepts: These will be in alignment with your scope and sequence together with concepts that have been learned already, enabling an opportunity for the students to apply their knowledge together with their new, developing understanding.
  3. A transdisciplinary approach: Learning will take place through multiple disciplines and skills. Research may be required, reading strategies may be implemented, scientific processes may have to be explored, collaboration may be required; all in the name of fulfilling the maths-based project.
    1. [caption id="attachment_3796" align="alignright" width="245"] High interest maths word problems act as provocations, inspiring research of global cultural traditions[/caption]  
  4. Open ended questions allowing scope for the children to lead their inquiry: Provide a balance between just enough guiding questions to support the children’s thinking whilst encouraging them to take the inquiry in a direction that is meaningful for them.
Real-world connections: Consider:
  1. How can you bring the students' curiosity into the maths project?
  2. How can you create a project that will rely on the maths concepts that you are currently learning?
  3. How can you have real-world, hands-on application of the maths skills that will reinforce the concepts authentically?

My advice with this is that you begin by asking the children.

Example: The Ice Cream Business project that I have shared below, is an example of the children deciding that they wanted to create their own gelato business after a provocation that explored local production and economy in Italy and thus the idea was born. Using real world data, bringing their questions into the investigation through the concepts of economy, production & organisation, the children were then able to include their maths skills (structured by my scope & sequence) as they developed their own business plan based on research, followed by creating a design of their own ice cream business.

Click here to take a closer look. 

[caption id="attachment_3827" align="aligncenter" width="720"] Through real-world inquiry, the children put their understanding of fractions into use to plan their own ice cream business.[/caption]

 Example of A Real-World Challenge

This example below demonstrates how our related concepts within our central idea became a real-world challenge that required the children to use their maths skills, through the project.

Central idea: Media can influence consumer decisions.

Within this inquiry, our related concepts were media and influence and so we looked at different forms of media advertising with the function of influencing consumers. Based on the children's curiosity following our provocation, we began to look at examples of daily products that successfully or unsuccessfully had an impact on our choices. We then thought about how we could emulate and improve upon this concept of influence and perhaps lead the consumer towards healthier choices with lifestyle. And thus our inquiry-based math project was born. [caption id="attachment_3165" align="aligncenter" width="350"] High engagement as maths concepts are applied with real-world projects requiring skills, strategy and conceptual understanding[/caption] From here the children decided upon their product. It was going to be a 3D construction of a food package.  We integrated our on-going knowledge and understanding of properties of polygons and polyhedra (shape) within the task of designing a package to best sell a product. Our new understanding of the concepts of measuring volume of 3d shapes was then applied too. Summarising the project: And so, I managed to cover the strands that needed to be taught (measuring volume of 3d shape), together with authentically applying the children's prior knowledge from earlier in the year, of properties of polygons and polyhedra, all through the related concepts within our central idea. A final product was created and then justified. Altogether it required:

  • collaborative thinking,
  • discussing and planning.
  •  formulating our questions,
  • researching
  • hypothesising & testing
  • knowledge & understanding of maths concepts
  • And so much more!

You can find this activity within my complete unit of inquiry, How We Express Ourselves Through Advertising.

You'll also find additional inquiry-based maths projects in my store too. Take a browse here. There's a LOT to look through, so please do reach out if youre looking for something specific.

Maths talk: Plan for opportunities that involve discussion of the maths in question. This enables academic language to be incorporated authentically, as the children become familiar with the maths skills and routines that are required, amplifying their understanding as they build upon ideas. This can be done as a stand alone skills-based activity or integrated into your project. For example: If your maths focus is elapsed time, present a problem that requires discussion through any of the key concepts. If you approach the discussion through perspective the content of the conversation will be quite different than if you look through the lens of function. I wrote an article on teaching time through an inquiry approach here.  

  • [caption id="attachment_3797" align="alignnone" width="980"] These task cards help to develop conceptual understanding through thinking & discussing of maths concepts through the IB PYP Key concepts. Available for all grade levels.[/caption]

I will be sharing with our community, a far more in-depth look at how to put those 4 keys together to plan and integrate a maths inquiry within your unit of inquiry. Look for that webinar coming soon. Until then, take some time to watch the video below that shares practical ways to include maths concepts authentically and conceptually through a process of investigation and discovery. Oh, and if you missed the first video in this conversation, " Integrating Maths Authentically" with Parvana sharing her strategies, you can find it in this article. 

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P.S. If you'd be interested in joining the upcoming LIVE webinar (and other free PD as I release it), be sure to subscribe to my blog to receive the registration invites directly. P.P.S: Come on over to Instagram and join in with our community. I'd love to feature your ideas for integrating maths authentically and share with our global colleagues. Just tag me @pypteaching


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