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Use questioning to help build proficiency in maths

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Use questioning to help build proficiency in maths

iMaths 7/8/19


Note: iMaths is in its final year and will be discontinued at the end of 2024. If you’re looking for a primary maths resource written for the Australian Curriculum Version 9.0, explore Maths Trek.

Questioning is a powerful teaching tool you can use to build proficiency in mathematics. When students are asked the right kinds of questions at the appropriate times, it can strengthen their understanding and fluency, develop their problem-solving skills and give their reasoning processes a workout.

A great way to facilitate meaningful questioning is to conduct Investigations. Here’s a few ways you can use questioning in your next Investigation – along with where you’ll find some ready-made questions in iMaths resources.

Use questions to introduce the Investigation

Use whole-class focus questions to introduce the Investigation and determine whether students are ready to begin. Ask students questions like:

  • What is the Investigation asking you to do?
  • Which Topics are really important for this Investigation?
  • What do you think you will be good at?
  • What do you think you will need help with?
  • Do you understand the meanings of key terms in this Investigation such as ____, ____ and ____?

You’ll find these focus questions in the Investigation Teaching Plans at iMaths Online.

Use questions during the Investigation

As students work through their Investigation, ask questions that provoke critical thinking. For example, you could ask questions that help students clarify their understanding, like How do you know …? Or you could ask questions that prompt students to make a conjecture, like What would happen if …? But be careful not to ask leading questions that give away the solutions!

Students will also ask each other questions as they discuss, debate and problem-solve in their groups. These questions can be just as valuable as those you ask the students.

Use questions to assess reasoning skills

Conduct one-on-one conferences with students to assess their proficiency in reasoning. Your questions should be specific to the Investigation and encourage students to discuss what they did, why they did it, and what they could have done differently.

To draw out their reasoning skills, questions should also allow students to prove, justify and explain their thinking. For example, after completing iMaths 5 Investigation Finals fever, where students explore costs and travel options to attend a sporting match, ask students questions like:

  • How did you decide your modes of transport?
  • Why were your chosen modes of transport better than the other options you investigated?
  • What could you do to improve your itinerary and budget?

Use the set of Communicating and reflecting questions for each Investigation to help you assess a student’s proficiency in reasoning. You’ll find these ready-made questions in the Investigation Teaching Plan at iMaths Online.

Use questions to make connections

Ask questions that encourage students to make connections between what they’ve learned in the Investigation and everyday situations, which can help to firmly cement their understanding of maths concepts. Make it a whole-class discussion so students can benefit from hearing each other’s thought processes, experiences and connections.

Your questions need to be specific to the Investigation context. For example, after completing the iMaths 3 Investigation How do I measure up?, where students use measurements to find relationships between various parts of their own body, ask students questions like:

  • Who needs to measure body parts in real life?
  • Besides lengths, what other kinds of body measurements can we take?

You’ll find a Making Connections slideshow for every Investigation at iMaths Online*.

*Features differ between year levels.

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