Casualty of last year’s library cull was this pile of rather out-dated looking textbooks from 1998. It was assumed that these were fit for the recycling bin. Words like textbook, levels and National Curriculum don’t easily fit with PYP philosophy or the direction I have been trying to take my Maths teaching. A cursory flick through the pages did, however, reveal a few gems that, with some tweaking, could look more like the inquiry-based experiences I have been working towards.

These textbooks are full of questions with the occasional illustration to add interest or a question about pizza or fences to turn it into a ‘real-life’ problem (more on this later). But with so much of the thinking already done for the students where is the room for inquiry? Try taking away the question and see where the image takes the lesson.

Without the students even knowing this was going to be a maths lesson, I shared this image with them and invited them to make comments, observations and start posing questions and wonderings. The students are familiar with a variety of thinking routines but seeing an image immediately led many of them to ‘I see, I think, I wonder…’. Once we had established this wasn’t about yoga, the conversation soon turned mathematical. We shared our ideas and I recorded them on the board. The students got to a similar question as the one posed in the textbook but they had ownership of the learning and the activity remained more open. It wasn’t about finding the right answer anymore.

After much stretching and sliding around the classroom and corridors, and careful checking of measurements, students had the data they needed to test their hypotheses.

‘Taller students will make quadrilaterals with the longest perimeter’

‘More flexible students will make the longest perimeter’

‘The longer your arms the longer the perimeter you can make’

This image was found in the ‘Area and Perimeter’ chapter of the book but it turned out to be so much more

  • using instruments for measuring ACCURATELY
  • efficient strategies for addition
  • converting between units of measure
  • decimal notation
  • 2D shape vocabulary
  • data collection, representation and interpretation
  • scatter graphs and lines of best fit

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