Integrating Math into an IB PYP Unit of Inquiry

  Keeping it real with inquiry based math.

I’m often asked how I integrate maths into our IB PYP units of inquiry. I won’t deny that depending on the unit, it can sometimes be easier said than done. However, I’ve found over the years, that it’s best to keep it relaxed and, if necessary, simply focus on concepts in maths rather than content.  Often, especially within the public IB schools in the USA, we are expected to meet certain maths standards by a certain time. This often results in a clash of math units and units of inquiry and a creative juggle ensues. But hey, who doesn’t love a challenge?  The rest of the IB world?  You’ve got it luckier, I assure you! Anyway, a great resource for math in the beginning of the year is It encourages a maths mindset and is centred around collaborative thinking. It does require signing up for a free account but, once you’re in, you can view the Week of Inspirational Math. This gives you a couple of days of lessons that demonstrate inquiry based thinking. It really has a ton of great information though.

Content vs Concepts

These flip flap books show the key concepts of function and form within the maths strand of Number Sense. An example of making the math concept based rather than content based within the IB PYP.

When in doubt as to how best to integrate maths, I will take the focus more to the conceptual level. For example: if we are learning about operations with decimals

 and our UOI doesn’t lend itself to this, then I’ll look at the key concepts of CHANGE &  CONNECTION. We can the see how those big ideas tie in with the different strategies needed to compute each operation- How is it changing? What is making the change? How do the equations connect with a different/the same answers? The children can make the connections and voila, we have succeeded in critical thinking and analysis of number and operations. ? You can link to a past blog post about the Key Concepts within the PYP here.

Content Based Inquiry

Another method to integrate maths, and this is my favourite, is to slightly stray from the central idea and work through a mini, project based learning opportunity.

This kills several birds with one stone: concepts, content, math conceptual reinforcement and inquiry. Not to mention the myriad of opportunity for developing the Approaches to Learning skills. Think COMMUNICATION, RESEARCH, THINKING, SELF MANAGEMENT etc. Love it! ( there is a great post all about developing those skills here)

Our global villages integrating math into a social studies unit of inquiry.

The pictures show how I took a social studies unit about Human Rights, tossed in a great book about diversity in the world and used those together to come up with a differentiated maths based inquiry.

Integrating measure: volume, area & perimeter with 3d geometry.

If the World Were A Village is a fabulous book to use by itself to look at the diversity amongst the people in the world. It uses large numbers ( in the millions and billions) as it shares how many people are of each nationality, religion, wealthy, educated, poor, starving, well fed etc. and how those large numbers would be shrunk if the world were only a small village. It’s really an eye opener to see that the western civilisation is in the minority throughout the world when it comes to many aspects of life and exactly how diverse we are in some ways and yet wholly connected in many others.  The numbers bring

 an easy connection to maths and lends itself nicely to our UOI and it ties in so well with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with global citizenship, with civil rights and religion. 

By incorporating the information from this book, I created a mini unit that had a huge emphasis on our math area of focus; measure, area & volume.

The kids made connections with the lines of inquiry in our unit, learned about the massive differences in the world’s human rights and created their OWN 2 dimensional and 3D global villages using their math skills.

Planning our 2d global village using area and perimeter.

Such a hit with my fifth graders! The unit, found in my store, is differentiated and can be easily adapted for 3rd-6th, phases 3& 4, depending upon your IB World  school.

You can find several more inquiry based math projects within my store:

Our SchoolThe Thanksgiving Journey,  The American RevolutionTessellations All Around Us and of course, all of my complete units of inquiry packs contain integrated math lessons. Click here to keep in touch. 

A few other great math resources that I love are linked here too.
Inquiry through authentic tasks from Dan Meyer and you can see Dan Meyer’s famous TEDTalk here. 

If you have other suggestions for integrating maths, please shout out. I’m always keen to learn from my peers. : )



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