One of the most endearing that my students are is when they are helping younger children. Preparing the classroom at the end of the year for the next group of students is considered a critical job for them, whether they are sharpening pencils or throwing out markers that no longer work. This year I decided to maximize this learning experience by having my students figure out how to prepare for the new class with some guided inquiry math.

1. Where will the new table groups go?

When I first posed this question, my students looked back at me with confusion before one of them replied, “wait, will you still have the same number of students?” The fun part of inquiry is that you don’t start out with all of the information that you need. Instead, you use your critical thinking skills to figure out what questions you have to ask to find that information before you can even begin to solve the problem.

The lesson went something like this:

• There will be 20 students next year (I know, working at a school with a 20 student limit is awesome!), meaning we don’t have enough tables.
• Where do we get tables? Exploration team to the school storage room
• Division to make equal groups puts the new class into 4 groups of 5…. But when we moved the tables – which sit 2 students at each – we found we need two extra tables to accommodate odd numbered groups.
• 5 groups of 4 means that students can’t push out their chairs without hitting each other
• 2 groups of 4 and 2 groups of 6 works perfectly

2. How should we organize our supplies?

We have tables, so students in my class store their books in these handy trays that pull all the way out. Most other supplies are also kept in the trays, including each table groups’ tray for colored pencils, crayons and markers that they can pull out and bring to their table to share.

My students were already warmed up to inquiry by the time I began this next challenge, so I was able to start it off with a simple question. Do we need to change the trays for next year?

• Do we have 20 trays for them to keep their books in? They can just share! Placement of two students books into one tray shows that won’t work.
• We don’t have enough colored pencil trays for four groups either! What can we get rid of?
• Placement of 20 trays to one side to reserve for student book trays.
• Prioritization of trays for colored pencils first, then markers.
• Consolidation of math resources and extra paper/colored paper/graph paper into other storage areas.

3. Do we have enough supplies?

One of the best teacher hacks for the last week of school is having your kids check the colored pencil/crayon/marker/highlighter conditions, sharpen what needs sharpening and throw away what needs throwing away. I started this off by asking the question: Do we have enough supplies for the kids next year? We had already set aside the correct number of trayss, so we were in good shape to begin the conversation.

• How many colored pencils/markers does each group need? Consensus that each student needs one pencil/marker of each color plus two extras per group.
• Well, how many good ones do we have now? Lots of pencil sharpening. Old markers/highlighters thrown out.
• Colored pencils and markers divided out among the groups.
• Shopping list made for me!

Have you used inquiry lessons to complete practical tasks? How have they worked?

By @SGroshell

14 thoughts on “3 Fun Inquiry Math Activities for the Last Week of School”

1. Hi Steph, I enjoyed your post. I think opportunities to explore mathematical thinking and problem solving such as these are important. I have mentioned your provocation in my latest post Is the ‘right way’ always the best way? http://wp.me/p3O5Jj-VE

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2. Amazing and very informative posts you have on your blog. Great going; wish you all the Good Luck 🙂

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3. What a great idea for a blog! Thanks for following mine – stop by any time.
Your ideas should be helpful – I retired as a college professor and am now tutoring middle schoolers. They are most challenging but also a lot of fun,.

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1. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yes, we’ve been busy over the summer with the blog – thanks for the kind words 🙂

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