For our February session, our inquiry focus was on mathematical inquiry. I shared two examples at January's session:

1) Using the iPad app, Haiku Deck Making 5 slide show) and the

2) photo book with students' inquiry questions that were inspired by the photos

These examples served as ideas for what mathematical inquiry can be in a primary classroom and how the process of the inquiry can be documented and shared. In these two examples, the Making 5 example documents the final stage of the inquiry and the What Shapes do you see? photobook documents the initial stage of the inquiry.

Using the frame of structured/guided/open inquiry that we have been talking about (reference: Inquiry Takes Time, Science and Children, September 2012), here are some more examples of mathematical inquiry tasks in the primary classroom.

Structured

During a study of place value, the teacher asks the students to think-pair-share with a partner about how they use numbers in their lives and the teacher records a few examples - addresses, phone numbers, money, time, the date. The teacher chooses a number appropriate for the whole class (or have the student choose a number within a range) and asks "How many ways can you represent ______?" Students are asked to build the number with cubes and represent it using pictures, numbers and words.

Guided

The class is studying measurement and the students have brainstormed a chart of wonder questions such as "how long is the longest snake in the world?" "how could we measure how long the basketball court is?" etc. The teacher chooses one of the questions for the class to work on that afternoon and invites the students to pursue the question however they like (could have students share their ideas first so they can hear and learn from each other) and that they will need to present their results/findings at the end of the afternoon. So for example, for the snake question, a student might ask to go the library to find a book about snakes and find out what snake is the longest and how long it is and then use a piece of string to create a model of the length to be able to show and share with the class. A guided prompt for students could be...*What do you think is longer than a snake?* to extend the inquiry and create new investigations that build on the first question.

Open

During a study of geometry, the teacher reminds the students what the PLOs are that the class is focusing on (or big ideas, learning intentions, etc). She asks them to choose one of their inquiry/wonder questions from their math journals that corresponds to the PLOs (the students in this class keeps an ongoing list and are given opportunities to pursue their questions about once a month) or to consider a new question of interest. The children are invited to investigate their questions and share their findings the next day.

As in Jen Barker's example with the Steve Jenkins book, *Just a Second*, picture books are great starting points for inquiry as well, and there are many resources in your school libraries to support you in this area. A book called Primary Problems to Ponder was developed in Richmond classrooms and there are many Marilyn Burns books about using chilldren's literature and mathematics for problem-based or inquiry learning.

Three of us from the study group recently attended a symposium about Technology and Inquiry. During his keynote, Neil Stephenson, District Principal of Innovation and Inquiry for the Delta School District, explained that mathematics is the most difficult area to work with an inquiry-oriented approach. He felt much of this is because of students and teachers' assumptions and conceptions around what mathematics is. Maybe that could be the initial inquiry in our classrooms...What IS mathematics?

Opportunities need to be provided for students to engage in authentic inquiry that is meaningful to them. In a primary classroom, creating openings for an emergent curriculum allows for authentic inquiry. This can happen during block play when a student wonders about a tall structure or during a discussion of current events when a student wonders aloud about the number of an endangered animal left in the world or the temperature in a country far far away. In our time with students, it is often easy to let routines and schedules and "have to do this" tasks take over our days. I think we need to be thoughtful and seize the moment when the moment presents itself and jump into some rich mathematical investigations with our students. So if a group of children building in the block area making towers wonders what the tallest buildings in the world are, whether we are currently "doing measurement" or not, embrace the potential of that investigation and watch the engagement lead to learning.

~Janice Novakowski