Since being pumped up from the Science Teachers Association of Ontario’s (STAO) conference last week, where I was awarded the Secondary Schools Science Teacher of the Year 2011 by Youth Science Canada, I decided to do an inquiry based lesson with my math class today.
Some people may have hesitated before trying inquiry based learning with my math class for any number of reasons:
- Class room dynamics are unpredictable
- Each learner is on their own individualized learning plan (IEP)
- A wide range of mathematical ability
- 50% of the students are English Language Learners (ELL)
- I’ve been out of the classroom for the past 3 teaching days
- This is a split level math class with KNN9A, MAT1L and MAT2L students present
No worries! I am confident this will work! The inquiry we conducted was: “How long does it take to eat a Freezie?” For those of you unfamiliar with freezies they are basically frozen sugar water sealed inside a flexible plastic cylinder. Kids cut the top off the plastic, push up the frozen treat and enjoy them – especially in hot weather.
Together we brainstormed all the possible variables that needed to be taken into consideration prior to conducting our test. Here is the list that the students generated:
- Temperature -- Frozen or liquid
- How hungry are you?
- Eating techniques
- What size is the Freezie?
- Colour – it was determined via discussion that the students eat their favourite colour faster than others
- How many do you have? Class discussion revealed that if there was only one freezie a person would be more apt to take their time and enjoy it whereas they would gobble it up quickly if there were lots more available to them
- Would you be just eating, or eating while talking?
Since I was the holder of the freezies I was able to inform the students that the freezies were currently:
- Various colours
- They would each get one
- They would just eat and not talk
Next the students each thought about long it takes them to eat a Freezie and recorded their estimate.
Students were then instructed to pull out whatever technology they had in their pocket and find the timer or stop-watch feature on it. This integration of 21st century technology lead to several teachable moments while the students were amazed that they even had this capacity on their gadgets, downloaded appropriate apps from the internet and helped each other with this task. Those who had no technology moved to sit with those who did without me guiding them whatsoever. The collaboration between the students was natural and free flowing!
Students cut the tops off their freezies, started their timers and sat back to enjoy their investigation. As each student completed their eating task they recorded their time.
By the time all the data was collected and tabulated today’s class was over. Tomorrow we shall move on to analysis. The type of information the students will be expected to extract from the data will depend on what level they are working at. The types of questions that shall be posed range from: “Who ate their Freezie the fastest” to “calculate the mode of the time it took for the freezies to be eaten in our class.”
Because the students are working with data they generated themselves they have ownership of it. This makes the learning task engaging and authentic to them. Learning is fun!