Using Investigations

During my summer course, our instructor made us do a few math investigations. This is the idea that students explore a concept on their own and try to come up with a mathematical rule, versus having the teacher prattling on about what one needs to memorize.

It’s easy, as a teacher, to revert back to the good ol’ lecture.

We do it all the time. While it’s necessary once in a while, it’s boring for the kids if it happens day in and day out. Not only that, but engagement often isn’t there. An investigation allows students to develop deeper learning. How often have you learned something in life because you discovered it on your own?

So I have made it a goal this year to trust my students more, and give them the ability to start exploring on their own, rather than delivering a boring lecture and telling them to memorize all the exponent rules. Too often I hear teachers in the north say, “Oh, they’re not capable of it” or “It’ll take too much time.”

Even I’ve said these words myself.

But what does that say about us as instructors, mentors and educators when we’ve simply decided that “they can’t” but that we don’t even provide them the opportunity in the first place?

This morning, I gave it a go. We looked at what happens when exponents of the same base were multiplied together?

And guess what?!

They got it!

That’s really all there is to it. Trust your kids. Let them think on their own. Stop holding their hand. Give them the chance.

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Where can you find math investigations? You can look through the resources at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), such as this investigation into the Law of Sines. The Ontario Association of Mathematics Education (OAME) also has an abundance of lesson plans (K-12) that are structured as investigations.

Quotient rule next week!