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Using verbal prompting during investigations

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Using verbal prompting during investigations

iMaths 15/8/22

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.

As a teacher, prompting is a useful strategy to help guide students in their learning without giving away the actual solution. Prompting is particularly useful during investigations where most students will benefit from extra guidance while applying higher-order thinking skills.

There are different types of prompting strategies you can use that serve different purposes. Try out these strategies during your next investigation.

Prompts to keep students on track

Sometimes you need to use prompts to help students understand where they are in a process and what they need to do for the next step. Use open-ended questions that guide them to where they need to be without giving away the answer. For example:

  • What have you done so far?
  • What parts have you completed?
  • What’s the next step?
  • What do you need to do now?

Often, talking to a student about what they’ve done and where they should go next is enough to make them recognise any mistakes they’ve made. However, there may be times when you need to provide more specific guidance to ensure they don’t compound any errors.

Prompts to facilitate discussion

When applying problem-solving skills, it is valuable for students to discuss and hear different ways of thinking through things.

During an investigation, observe if students apply different strategies to solve problems, and facilitate a class discussion to let students share their thought processes.

Simple prompts such as Who wants to share how they tackled the investigation? and Did anyone else apply different strategies during the investigation? are a good way to get the discussion started. Then, once a few students have shared different problem-solving skills, you can dig a little deeper to compare the different ways in which students approached the problem. For example: Which of these methods do you think is the easiest to use? Or the fastest?

Prompts to encourage reasoning

To adequately assess a student’s reasoning skills, you will often need to prompt students to draw out their thought processes and articulate their reasoning. To start with, simply ask why or how in your questions. For example: Why did you divide? or How did you know to do that?

As well as asking why or how, you can also use cognitive verbs in your prompts. Cognitive verbs such as prove, explain or justify require students to articulate their reasoning at a higher level. For example:

  • Can you prove it?
  • Explain to me why you divided by 2.
  • Can you justify your answer? How?
  • How do the two options compare?

Tip: Use the ready-made communicating and reflecting questions available in each Investigation Teaching Plan at iMaths Online.

Prompts to connect maths to real-world experiences

Throughout the investigation, it is important for students to connect their learning to real-world experiences. To encourage this kind of thinking, try to relate the outcomes of the investigation to a student’s own experiences.

For example, after completing the Year 5 Investigation iFlakes, you can ask your students questions such as:

  • Who does the food shopping in your family?
  • Describe in detail the way your mum or dad shops. Do they look for bargains, or healthy food, or just purchase the same things each week?
  • How much does advertising affect the buying habits of your family?
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