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Inquiry in mathematics is understood as a way of teaching and learning by asking questions and finding answers, identifying problems and seeking solutions, exploring, investigating and explaining mathematical meanings.













IBL is an active learning approach to teaching and learning mathematics whereby students actively construct mathematical knowledge from the situations presented to them. In this teaching approach, there is more emphasis on ‘how learners come to know’ and less on ‘what learners know’. IBL is a teaching method that involves students in sense-making activities that resemble the work of mathematicians.


Tasks require students to solve problems, work on investigations, provide multiple solution strategies, conjecture, explore, explain, create and communicate mathematics. Students are more involved in the construction of knowledge through their active collaborative involvement. The more interested and engaged students are, the easier it will be for them to construct mathematical meanings independently.


IBL can also be done through teacher exposition by provoking students to think and question ideas presented. This perspective values teaching by asking rather than telling and learning is driven by open questions. When teachers focus on presenting evidence and information while encouraging student questioning, the classroom discourse may become a powerful means to promote students inquiry and thus more effective learning.



In this short video, Jo Boaler (Professor of Mathematics Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education) speaks about inquiry-based learning. In a nutshell, she claims that IBL is about giving students the opportunity to use their own ideas to investigate questions and solve problems.

This video shows students engaged in IBL during a science class. Here IBL is seen as an educational approach driven by students' questions. The teacher acts as a guide to students in finding the answers and to encourage them to ask new questions that they genuinely care about, thus assuming more ownership in their learning.

The 'Teaching Channel' presents this 1-minute video on inquiry-based teaching. Inquiry-based teaching values students' ideas. There is no right or wrong answer when posing open-ended questions. The discussions engage students to wrestle with ideas, always respecting different views.


Click on the titles below for some interesting readings on IBL.


1. Getting Started with Student Inquiry

This October 2011 online issue of the 'Capacity Building Series' presents ways for teachers to get started with student inquiry.


2. Inquiry-based Learning
Issued online in May 2013, this 8-page booklet from the 'Capacity Building Series' provides guiding principles for educators on how IBL may be implemented in class.


3. Teaching for Meaningful Learning
A book excerpt on inquiry-based, problem-oriented and cooperative learning.


4. Implementing IBL Teaching Methods
This paper focuses on the nature of inquiry and provides guidelines and strategies for implementing IBL teaching methods.


5. Inquiry-based Teaching
Inquiry-based teaching, an inquiry-oriented curriculum, the role of the teacher and the textbook.


6. Kirschner, Sweller and Clark (2006)

An ‘attack’ on the use of inquiry-based learning as a teaching strategy.


7. Hmelo-Smith, Duncan and Chinn (2007)

A response to Kirschner, Sweller and Clark (2006).


8. Integrating Investigations in Secondary School Mathematics (2011)

A Masters' degree dissertation by James Calleja.


Click on the icons below to access some useful resources to teaching mathematics through inquiry.




The Mathematics Assessment Resource Service (MARS) works with districts and states on the design and implementation of performance assessment, and on professional development for designers and teachers. The major current project is the Mathematics Assessment Project (MAP), developing formative assessment lessons and rich summative performance tasks to support the Common Core State Standards, emphasizing the vital mathematical practices they require. Access the link provided below for a wide range of great teaching ideas and useful curriculum materials.

Inquiry Maths is a website that provides a range of mathematical statements, or prompts, which are intended to stimulate student explorations! Should you be interested in improving your student assessment, take a look at an interesting section 'Assessment for Inquiry'.

Bowland Maths aims to make maths engaging and relevant to pupils aged 11-14, with a focus on developing thinking, reasoning and problem-solving skills. From the set of tasks presented, the mathematics is intended to emerge naturally as students tackle problems set in a rich mixture of real-life and fantasy situations.These materials in this website range from classroom projects, assessment tasks, professional development modules and a lesson study project.

Invest in Math Sense provides teaching ideas, resources and downloadable materials to support teachers in implementing inquiry-based learning practices. The materials in this website were created by a team of teachers working at St Clare College secondary school - a state secondary school in Pembroke (Malta).

The PRIMAS project aims at supporting teachers in integrating and applying inquiry-based learning pedagogies in their mathematics and science classrooms. During the project’s lifetime (2010-2013), various resources and support measures were developed and available to teachers, parents and students in a materials database. These include, teaching materials, professional development courses for teachers, support for teachers and support for professional development facilitators.

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