Inquiry 1

Here you can see everything that went on the board during this inquiry:

I decided to try my first inquiry with a year 7 extension group I teach once a week. This consists of just 8 pupils: a luxuriously small number to work with, and great for a trial run of a new approach.

What Went Well: 

The pupils really got into it. They are generally very motivated but until now, they had been quite reserved and less willing to share their ideas. The investigative nature and the chance to write up their ideas for the class brought them out of their shells. One unforseen advantage of this was that I felt that I learned much more about their strengths than I had in the preceding 4 lessons.

It encouraged excellent sharing of skills: several of the class were quick to generalise, but others were algebraically stronger so helped them to prove their generalisations. Others focussed on finding examples which then showed the generalisers that their theories were incomplete.

The process gave them the experience of being real mathematicians, something which is far too rarely the case in schools. They loved it.

Even Better If:

The regulatory cards are quite general and so needed more explanation than I gave. At first, pupils chose a regulatory card like “practice a procedure” but when asked what procedure, couldn’t answer.  Similarly, they chose “change the prompt” but had no suggestions for how to change it!

The process of pupils sharing their ideas was pretty chaotic, and that’s with a class of 8! Moderating an inquiry so that all pupils get to contribute as they wish will be tough with a more normal class size. This will be somewhat offset when I am ready to open up inquiries to several branches.


The inquiry only lasted 2 x 35 minute lessons and could easily have gone on for longer but for the Christmas holidays! I suggested that they might continue working on it over the break so I’m interested to see if they have done so in January.

Overall, I think it’s going to be a great approach with this group which I’ll use very regularly. Next, to a full sized class…

One thought on “Inquiry 1”

  1. Thank you for these insightful comments. I think you have identified a key advantage of the inquiry process. The teacher can learn much more about how individual students think mathematically than in a traditional lesson. The point you make about the general nature of the regulatory cards in an Inquiry Maths lesson is also important. I ask each pair of students to select a card in turn and then justify the selection. While recording all selections, a pair who feel they are going to repeat a justification are allowed to ‘pass’. Although this process might seem time-consuming, I think it is essential for a slow start to the inquiry that allows all students to understand the possible directions in which the inquiry could develop. As students learn to regulate inquiry, I find that their justifications become more sophisticated.

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