place-based mathematical inquiry

Posted on: May 23rd, 2014 by jnovakowski

Last week, divisions 4 and 5 from Byng (the grades 4 and 5 classes) took some iPads and went for a math walk into Steveston. Before we left, we had a discussion about what math is (most students said “doing stuff with numbers” or something like that) and we began to then talk about mathematics in a broader sense, how we see it in our world and use it daily. One boy mentioned that his dad has told him that math is in everything. As we walked into Steveston, we asked the students to notice math in their environment, in this place that we live. The students were to capture images with the iPads that would inspire them to think mathematically. The students noticed lots of numbers (addresses, license plates, etc) but also noticed math being used, particularly in construction.

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We walked to Steveston Harbour, at the mouth of the south arm of the Fraser River, and sat down on the pier for a short talk. After briefly  discussing the story of the shared history of the river, the students were asked to think and wonder about this place.

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Inspired by the Fraser River, some of the questions the students asked are:

How much water is in the Fraser River?

How many fish do they catch?

How much money do they make?

How many boats are in the harbour?

How deep is the Fraser River?

How old is the Fraser River?

How far do people travel to catch fish?

How many fish would the Aboriginal people have caught a long time ago?

What was the traditional boat for fishing for the Musqueam people?

Was the water always this colour?

What is the most common fish to catch?

We decided to take the whole group down to the docks where there were some fishing boats open and with fish for sale. This was a great opportunity for the students to investigate some of their questions and they found a fisherman willing to answer their questions (and after being bombarded, we obliged by purchasing a pink salmon from him).

How many fish do you catch a day?

30-500 depending on how lucky I am.

How far do you go to catch your fish?

I caught these near Haida Gwaii.

How much do each of the fish weigh?

About 3-4 pounds each.

How much does this one cost?



The students walked back to school with even more questions and hopefully a greater awareness of math in their world. The next phase of inquiry will be to choose some of their questions to investigate.



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