primary teachers study group: inquiry in mathematics

Posted on: February 7th, 2016 by jnovakowski

In its thirteenth year, the Richmond Primary Teachers Study Group chooses a focus each year to guide their professional collaborative inquiry. This year, building on the focus on inquiry in BC’s redesigned curriculum, teachers wanted to investigate inquiry across curriculum areas and we’ve chosen one curriculum area as a focus for each term, beginning with mathematics.

We began our first session by looking at the definition of inquiry provided on BC’s curriculum website:

BC Curriculum Glossary

and from that, talking about the focus on a range of types of inquiry and the importance of student-generated questions. We also discussed how there can be different starting points for inquiry – the mathematics itself, an object, a book, an image, etc.

RPTSG thinking about inquiry Oct 2015

As a group, we chose one strand of mathematics (patterning) and collected some ideas for different types of inquiry-based experiences for our students.

IMG_0627 IMG_0628

Teachers were asked to try one of these tasks or related ones and notice how their students responded.

what in the world┬áThis year, we are using a collection of children’s picture books to inspire inquiry and our first one is the newly released What in the World?: Numbers in Nature by Nancy Raines Day.

This book helps students see the world through a mathematical lens and provokes students to notice numerical sets in their world. This is a great book to read before going outside for a math walk with the prompt: I wonder what math/numbers/patterns/shapes/etc we will see?

A book list was also provided so that teachers had other potential starting points for inquiry with their students.

book list-mathematical inquiry


When we met together in November, teachers shared the different tasks they tried and we began to record some of the inquiry questions that inspired these tasks – some from the teachers and some from their students.


Screen Shot 2016-02-06 at 8.20.13 PMWe only meet every 4-6 weeks but we also have a conference site on Richnet, our intranet platform. Teachers are able to share ideas on this site. Here is a photo from one teacher’s classroom showing how she set up a provocation using our study group book:


Another teacher shared an emergent inquiry from her class. During a study of Canada and how animals adapt to different ecosystems in a grade 2&3 class, the students wondered how big a walrus really was. This led into an investigation of size, comparing the size of the walrus to themselves and using all sorts of different measuring tools and language. A short write up of this inquiry is included here:

Primary Walrus Math Investigation

This study group provides teachers with a community to share ideas, and build on each others’ thinking and questions and has become a “safe” support network for primary teachers over the years. Looking forward to continuing this professional collaborative inquiry into inquiry!


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