What would happen if we didn’t have numbers?
Rubi poses this question to her Year 5 class, as a provocation, generating wonderful ideas and discussion…
- We couldn’t build houses because we’d have no units of measurement.
- No price tags. Everything would be free.
- You wouldn’t know your age.
- There wouldn’t be computer technology if there were no binary numbers.
One student declares ‘We wouldn’t have time’ to which another responds ‘There would still be time, just no way to record it’…and they are on their way to a deeper conceptual understanding.
As Rubi shares the conversation with me, we are excited, not just by the kinds of things the children have thought about, but by the power of a simple open-ended question to provoke thinking and inspire discussion.
She tells me she had planned to give a Maths pre-test during that lesson but, swept along by the comments, questions and conversation, had forgotten all about it. I point out that everything is an assessment. She agrees that she has gathered a broad range of data via this discussion, not just in terms of their understanding of the content, but about her students as learners. She can tell:
- What they know about numbers.
- Who understands the difference between time and the recording of time.
- Their understanding of the application of numbers.
- Which learners think in a complex way, beyond what’s on the surface.
- How open each learner is to debate and ideas that challenge their thinking.
- Which students are already engaging with higher order thinking and which might need support.
- Who is naturally curious and eager to learn.
- Which children think they are not interested in Maths and are turned off by talk of numbers.
- Who is ready to take ownership of their learning and run with their own inquiries.
- Who will need another provocation that engage them further…
Our school goal for the year is to use data to inform teaching and improve learning. While many think of data as the formal, numerical kind, it’s interesting how much informal data can be gleaned from careful observation and really listening to the learning. This is how good inquiry teachers decide where to go next.
Plan in response to learning, not in advance…