Inquiry Based Learning


What is IBL?

IBL is a form of active learning in which students are given a carefully scaffolded sequence of mathematical tasks and are asked to solve and make sense of them, working individually or in groups. Many varieties of IBL exist under one “big tent”. While courses may look different, they all rely on the core principles of (1) deep engagement in rich mathematical activities and (2) opportunities to collaborate with peers. Following these core principles, IBL courses enhance student learning by providing opportunities to learn the process of understanding and presenting math rather than simply watching someone else do it.


IBL in the Classroom

In IBL-based courses, students are challenged to engage in deep understanding of mathematics. Effective courses make use of purposefully structured problems and class-wide collaboration to develop student strength in not only critical mathematical thinking, but also, interpersonal and group collaboration skills. All of this is made possible by an invested instructor who guides discussion and material to best fit the unique needs of their students and classroom environment.


Math Anxiety Iceberg

When it comes to mathematics, students often feel anxious about the subject. In IBL classes, this can be manifested as a statement similar to "I don't learn this way" and identifies with a fixed mindset. However, this resistance is just the tip of the iceberg can be due to a variety of reasons. When you begin to look beneath the surface and start talking with the student, you will be able to get to the deeper issues that the student is experiencing, as shown in the first diagram below. The second diagram gives ideas for how you can start melting the iceberg and help students develop a growth mindset. For more information please visit the IBL Blog Post on the Math Anxiety Iceberg here.  


The Road to present day IBL

This literature summary begins by discussing the various incarnations of Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL), elaborating on various modifications as well as providing links to resources. The often discussed coverage issue and the costs of choosing to teach in a lecture-intensive approach are also explained. Inquiry-Based Learning is offered as an alternative to the traditional lecture-based approach. IBL allows students to not only cover, but engage with the material in a more stimulating way. Strong evidence from the literature is presented in favor of using Inquiry-Based Learning in the teaching of proof. Furthermore, this summary highlights the positive effect between an inquiry approach to teaching and overall better acquisition and retention of conceptual understanding as well as improved enjoyment of the subject for the students and the teacher.

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