Using Inquiry-Based Learning With STEMscopes Math Activities

ALI Staff | Published  October 21, 2022

Traditional methods of teaching math only work for a handful of students. The majority of students struggle trying to learn math the same way as those select few.

Using Inquiry-based learning in math class emphasizes the exploration of concepts, allowing students to focus on how the process works rather than how to complete the process itself. Approaching math this way allows students to gain confidence in their mathematical abilities, which sets them up for future success. 

Are you looking to change the way students look at math? Interested in providing learner-centered instruction without watering down content?

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at aspects of inquiry-based learning with real examples from the STEMscopes curriculum. Let’s take a look at how these IBL strategies can change the way we approach, teach, and think about math




Often times when someone brings up the topic of math, the typical response is “I’m not a math person.” 

What this really means is that they have struggled with math and in that struggle have categorized themselves as someone who doesn’t have the aptitude or skillset for success in math.

Well, that just isn’t true. 

Instead of emphasizing the correct sequence of steps in order to find a solution, students are more likely to understand math when it’s taught in an inquiry-based way– focusing on concepts rather than procedures and emphasizing exploration and discovery. This conceptual approach to math improves understanding and increases math literacy.


What does IBL look like in math?

Inquiry-based learning emphasizes a student-centered approach to learning. IBL allows for a flexible and multi-dimensional approach to understanding difficult math concepts, where students engage in metacognition, participate in discourse, explore patterns, make real-world connections, and much more.

In an inquiry-based approach, students examine a question to determine what information is available, apply logic and mathematical reasoning, discuss ideas for finding answers to that question, and work together or independently to test those ideas.

Let’s take a closer look at some STEMscopes Math activities– all of which are rooted in inquiry-based learning.


Metacognition & Self-Reflection

My Math Thoughts is a STEMscopes Math feature that enables the practice of metacognition. Students who practice metacognition can think about math in a way that removes any negative feelings associated with the subject. My Math Thoughts is a writing exercise in which students express their intellectual and emotional reactions to math content. My Math Thoughts includes three sections: Content, Process, and Affective. 

Here, students reflect on their engagement with the math lesson. They are able to offer honest self-reflection and thought about the topic at hand.

Below is an example of My Math Thoughts:

My Math Thoughts


Students can ask themselves if they’re comprehending the lesson. Which parts, if any, do they struggle with? Are they feeling frustrated? Accomplished?

Instead of thinking “I will never understand this,” My Math Thoughts helps students slow down and perform metacognition. Instead of seeing a math problem and getting intimidated, students who practice this exercise will develop an understanding of what is challenging them in math. Recognizing this, students are able to build the confidence that will aid them in tackling previously intimidating math problems. Performing metacognition with My Math Thoughts makes math approachable and paves the way for student success.


Discourse and Discussion

STEMscopes Math’s Decide and Defend poses an open-ended question to students, who in turn, make a claim that they will support mathematically. After formulating their argument, students debate their ideas in a small or large group setting. By doing so, they affirm their knowledge and discover gaps in their understanding as they exchange ideas. 

Through discourse, students may find that their original answer or logic was incorrect, and now they have a better grasp of the approach to problem-solving. This is also beneficial for students who found the correct answer,  as they now have the opportunity to express their reasoning,  which empowers them and instills confidence in their own mathematical abilities. 

Below is an example of Decide and Defend:

Decide and Defend

Decide and Defend 2

Teachers should encourage students to approach this exercise as a learning opportunity, clarifying that it is not about who’s right or who’s wrong. Rather, it’s a chance to become a mathematical thinker capable of gracefully disagreeing and learning from one another.


Real-World Connections

One of the benefits of STEM is the opportunity for students to make real-world connections to a topic. This will engage students and contribute to the discourse and discussion mentioned above.

In STEMscopes Math Today, we provide informative articles and videos that cover relevant social and ecological issues and how people are using math to address them. These videos serve the dual purpose of making students socially aware and demonstrating the importance of math. 

Real-world connections are at the heart of STEMscopes Math, revealing the relevance of math in ordinary life and its role in the development of world-saving technology. Making real-world connections allows for student inquiry in math because the topics are relatable and high-interest.

Below is an example of Math Today: 



Social Aware 2

Social Aware 3 (1)


Recognizing Patterns

The ability to see patterns and the interconnected between concepts is a hallmark of math learning. Daily numeracy is a 15-minute exercise in which students practice recognizing patterns while reasoning with numbers accurately, efficiently, and effectively. 

In Daily Numeracy, the teacher poses a series of open-ended questions to their students. This exercise allows students to freely think about associations and patterns while building up their mathematical confidence as they identify possible patterns. 

Below is an example of a Daily Numeracy activity called Not Like the Others


Daily Numeracy

In Not Like the Others, teachers should not rattle off the questions in rapid succession. Instead, they should offer appropriate wait time. Students should have time to observe and formulate their answers. 

This activity could be used as a warmup at the beginning of class or even a formative assessment. One of the best things about STEMscopes is the flexibility for teachers to organize their lessons in a way that best suits the needs of their students. 


Changing students' perception of math

As a teacher, you’re not going to change your students' attitude about math overnight. It’ll require some unlearning of negative associations with math. However, using inquiry-based learning can transform the way students learn and think about math. IBL offers opportunities in math to learn, explore, and have fun while doing so. Not only will increase student buy-in, it will make teaching math an enjoyable experience for teachers as well.

Want to learn more about IBL and other STEMscopes activities? 

Download our whitepaper to get more insight and more activities to use in your classroom today. 





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