Monday, February 2, 2015

January Inquiry

I am part of the Math Mamas Inquiry group.  At this point, our big question is, "What is Inquiry?"  Our group is composed of all math teachers.  However, since I am new at the whole inquiry thing, I feel like science is a better place for me to start.  Therefore, as I try to answer "What is Inquiry?" I am going approach it through science.

As Colleen and I started to plan for the 2nd science unit, Weather Systems, we decided to try it as a inquiry based unit.  We started with the overarching question, "How has accurate weather prediction contributed to society's advancement."  I asked students to think about this question and then asked them to share their thoughts and questions. 
As you can see, the students had several questions and thoughts.  However, many of the questions concerned society's advancement.  As a class we discussed what society's advancement could mean.  After several minutes of discussion, I realized I had to focus the discussion on weather and weather prediction.

The puzzle for me was how to get the kids to ask the questions that we needed answered during the unit.  I noticed that most kids wanted to research tornadoes, hurricanes and major weather systems. 
However, there were many other questions that had to be answer for students to understand weather prediction and society's advancements.   We took some of the big questions from Tracks to help guide the students to create questions that would support the intended learning.

The major inquiry questions we posed to the students to explore included:
Why are there seasons?
How has weather technology changed over the years?
Why does catastrophic weather occur?
How are elevation and temperature related?
Why do different places in the world have different weather?
How does temperature, air pressure, wind speed and types of clouds influence the weather?
What drives the weather? What is weather?
What makes the temperature of locations at the same latitude different from one another?

Students are now in the process of exploring one of the questions listed above.  They are also creating projects to demonstrate their findings and learnings.


  1. Tracy,
    I appreciated your honest assessment of having to do direct instruction and build background knowledge before letting kids loose on an inquiry project. We do need to establish a framework with parameters around expectations, outcomes, and process. It sounds like the weather research is going well, and I can't wait to see their final projects.

  2. Tracy,
    I completely agree that starting with inquiry in Science is the best fit, especially if you are in the beginning stages of trying it out. I was thinking: could we "dabble" in inquiry in Math by just asking the students about what questions they have, posting them on a google doc for all to see and then using it as extra credit? I was also thinking that we could create a list of accomplished mathematicians (male, female and various cultural backgrounds) that students could go through the inquiry process of learning about and then share with the class. If they created posters, these would be cool to display in the classroom or around the building.

    I was also wondering: as our students share their final projects for our Weather Systems Inquiry project, how can we hold them accountable as listeners or how can we check to see if they understand the curriculum/standards. Can we create some sort of "assessment"?