I love the idea of inquiry based learning. I found this incredible graphic here to describe 10 reasons why teachers should be using inquiry-based learning in the classroom.
Phenomenal, right? Why would you NOT want to use inquiry-based learning in the classroom?
Let's be real for a second. There are just times when students cannot simply inquire their way through something. For example, the Quadratic Formula. I'm sorry, but no 15 year old is going to have enough grit or perseverance to ever come up with that bad boy.
I am very selective with when I use inquiry in my classroom, cautiously only choosing content that students have plenty of background knowledge with so that they have an entry point to their exploration. I never want to have so much self guided inquiry that students shut down, give up, or feel like they have no idea how to begin. For 10th grade Geometry, finding the area of a polygon is the perfect opportunity for students to find success with an inquiry-based activity. Prior to this unit, students have had instruction on trigonometry, Pythagorean theorem, special right triangles, interior angle sum of polygons, and area of quadrilaterals, triangles, and trapezoids. With all the tools in their toolbox they need, students were ready to start exploring how to find the area of regular polygons!
In groups of 4, students were given a regular hexagon with a side length of 6. Of course I used my favorite dry erase mats.
They were instructed to work together, using whatever mathematical tools necessary, to find the area of the hexagon. Here are some of the creative ways they split up their hexagons...
After students found the area (which by the way, almost every group was able to!), each group presented their strategy to the class.
After each group presented, we asked the class the following questions:
1. How does this method compare with your method? What's similar? What's different?
2. If you had to find the area of another hexagon, would you change your method and do this one instead? Why or why not?
3. If you had to find the area of a heptagon, would this method still work? What about a octagon?
It was an awesome day and will lead beautifully into a more formal strategy for finding the area of any polygon as well as the formula using the apothem and perimeter. You could literally have checked each box from the graphic organizer above today. All the things happened. When inquiry is done right, it's a magnificent tool.
Kudos to my student teacher, Ms. Schmidt for all the set up for this activity. She's half way through her student teaching and totally rocking it like a seasoned pro. I am so excited to see where her career takes her. If this is the beginning, I can't even imagine what's next!