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Inquiry-Based Mathematics With a Focus on Innovative Solutions

Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Franklin 7/8

Preregistration Required
Explore and create : Deep-dive Creation lab


Knox Grammar Preparatory School
Knox Grammar Preparatory School
Team Leader of Innovation and Technology
Knox Grammar Preparatory School
ISTE Certified Educator
Ian Fairhurst is the Team Leader of Innovation & Technology at Knox Grammar Preparatory School in Sydney, Australia. Responsible for leading and supporting staff & students in the immersive use of digital & design technologies embedded in innovative learning experiences, he is passionate about embedding authentic globally-focused learning opportunities through STEAM education, as well as establishing an active maker-culture in schools. Ian has a master’s degree in Innovation & Change, and has presented globally on developing real-world educational experiences with an empathy+STEAM approach. His vision is to provide opportunities for the next generation of leaders to engage with authentic issues in our world.
Head of Knox Prep
Knox Grammar School
ISTE Certified Educator
Sue Floro is an audacious educational thinker who understands the importance of a future focused, experience rich curriculum that encourages K-6 students to seek solutions to issues on a global scale. She has led the development of a school based curriculum platform, with the deep integration of the purposeful use of technology to design, create and innovate, at her school in Australia. Sue believes in the power of children to creatively solve great big world problems, and enjoys providing an environment where they can do just that!
Knox Grammar Preparatory School
Knox Grammar Preparatory School
Knox Grammar Preparatory School
Knox Grammar Preparatory School

Session description

With a focus on extending students’ mathematical thinking in the middle years, this collaborative, hands-on session will explore real-world problems related to the Sustainable Development Goals and propose solutions derived from data or directly related to math concepts. Learn how these solutions are created using design apps.
Grade level: 6-8
Skill level: Intermediate

Purpose & objective

The purpose of this presentation is to provide educators with the understanding, confidence and tools to teach effective Mathematics in the 21st Century classroom. The teaching is evidence-based and focused on Mathematics in context, where educators will explore examples of, and propose solutions to, real-world problems that have explicit Mathematics links (such as the Census, why it is used and how it assists with Town Planning). Mathematics concepts are taught together, rather than individually, to enable deep learning, see the relevance in the subject, and to develop a love of Mathematics as a whole.

Through this presentation, educators will have the understanding of how to integrate Mathematics into an Inquiry-Based Learning program and the knowledge of how to guide students to create innovative, Mathematics driven solutions. For example, analysing the Census, ascertaining what a community needs based on its Census data, 'buying' a property, designing a resource for the community and 3D modelling it. The concept driven learning focuses on a range of skills including length, perimeter, area, scaling, multiplication, division, 2D shapes, 3D shapes, interpreting data and finding the median. ICT is integrated throughout the learning as students research and devise solutions on their devices (TinkerCad and the Adobe Suite).

The technology platforms are the Adobe Suite (Fresco/Illustrator), Google Docs/Slides and TinkerCad. This presentation will be student lead with support from teachers.

This unit was successfully implemented this year with an Extension Year 6 Mathematics class where the class was broken into 6 small groups. Many students noted that this unit was their favourite of the year and it was apparent that they enjoyed it as they carefully navigated their way through the Census and proposed creative solutions to make their chosen community more inclusive. The students proposals included community resources such as language schools, retirement centres, mental-health facilities, additional hospital wings and childcare centres - all justified by the Census data. As the task was open-ended, the students had the opportunity to extend themselves whilst gaining a deeper understanding of Maths in context.

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The session will begin with an introduction of the learning that will occur. That being, how to create inquiry-based Mathematics learning with a focus on innovative solutions. The audience will be introduced to the idea of concept-driven learning and an overview of the concepts that will be covered will be announced. A YouTube clip of the use of the Census will be played. ( Approximate time - 20 minutes.

Subsequent to this, the audience will be an active participant throughout the session. The presentation is student-lead, with the assistance of teachers, and aided by a Slide presentation. The audience will independently or in a pair/group delve into the Census and be guided through the learning through questioning and peer-to-peer assistance where needed. The focus within the Census is on on particular data sets (such as demographics, health, wage and languages spoken) and record information on Google Docs or Slides (audience choice). Approximate time - 20 minutes.

Next, the audience will collaboratively brainstorm a range of resources that a community may need on a shared whiteboard/piece of paper (eg: hospital, language school, community centre, park, mental-health facility, etc). The audience (independently/in their groups) will ascertain what their suburb needs based on their Census data. If required, peer-to-peer interaction will be employed. Approximate time - 10 minutes.

The audience will design a floor plan of their resource on Adobe Fresco/Illustrator (or a similar illustration app) with the use of a scale. A checklist will be provided to the audience to ensure they include the perimeter and area measurements, and a scale in their 'blue-print' design. Students will sit one-on-one with the audience to guide them on their path to success. Once complete, the resources will be 3D modelled on TinkerCad. Again, students will sit one-on-one with the audience. Approximate time - 30 minutes.

The session will finish with the audience sharing their designs and asking further questions. Approximate time - 10 minutes.

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Supporting research

Katie Makar, & Jill Fielding-Wells. (2018). Shifting more than the goal posts : developing classroom norms of inquiry-based learning in mathematics. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 30(1), 53–63.

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Session specifications

Project-, problem- & challenge-based learning
Principals/head teachers, Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty
Attendee devices:
Devices required
Attendee device specification:
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Subject area:
ISTE Standards:
For Students:
Innovative Designer
  • Students exhibit a tolerance for ambiguity, perseverance and the capacity to work with open-ended problems.
Creative Communicator
  • Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
Global Collaborator
  • Students explore local and global issues and use collaborative technologies to work with others to investigate solutions.

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