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Jennifer Chang Wathall

What Does Inquiry-Based Learning Look Like in the Math Classroom?

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What Does Inquiry-Based Learning Look Like in the Math Classroom?

What Does Inquiry-Based Learning Look Like in the Math Classroom?

Jennifer Chang Wathall explains how the inductive teaching approach creates an environment for students to uncover the beauty and creativity of mathematics.

A Post By: Anthony Persico

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I recently had the opportunity to interview Jennifer Chang Wathall, author of Concept-Based Mathematics: Teaching for Deep Understanding in Secondary Schools, about what teaching strategies she finds most effective for engaging math students of all levels.



Jennifer Chang Wathall on the Inductive Teaching Approach and Inquiry Based Learning in the Math Classroom

One of my favorite lessons to help my students understand the ratio π is by connecting this to the topic of linear functions. I ask students to collect circular objects and measure the circumference and diameter using string. We then create a spreadsheet to approximate π and then graph all the measurements taken for diameter against circumference for the different the objects. Students approximate this ratio using the spreadsheet and through analyzing the linear function c = πd. This is an example of adopting an inductive teaching approach. 

I enjoyed a glorious 27-year teaching career and something that completely transformed my practice was embedding an inductive teaching approach. The inductive teaching approach creates an environment for students to uncover the beauty and creativity of mathematics for themselves through inquiry based learning.

The inductive teaching approach creates an environment for students to uncover the beauty and creativity of mathematics for themselves through inquiry based learning.
— Jennifer Chang Wathall

George Polya said:

Mathematics has two faces: it is the rigorous science of Euclid, but it is also something else. Mathematics presented in the Euclidean way appears as a systematic, deductive science; but mathematics in the making appears as an experimental, inductive science.

The inductive teaching approach encourages students to inquire through experimentation, enables connections between different topics to be made, and supports deep conceptual mathematical understanding which gives students the ability to apply and transfer to different contents.

The table below summarizes the difference between the deductive and inductive teaching approach.

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For more examples of the inductive teaching approach, check out Jennifer’s book Concept-Based Mathematics: Teaching for Deep Understanding in Secondary Schools available on Amazon.

You can also connect with Jenner on Twitter: @jenniferwathall and by visiting her website www.jenniferchangwathall.com

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