Mathematical inquiry is a process of using mathematical evidence to address complex problems that contain ambiguities. A/Prof Katie Makar has worked closely with schools to research mathematical inquiry in primary classrooms. Four ARC projects and a UQ Early Career Grant funded three related research projects on mathematical inquiry: a seven year longitudinal study (2006 – 2012) on how teachers develop confidence and expertise in teaching mathematical inquiry and two focused qualitative studies—how teachers in inquiry classrooms develop argumentation practices (2012 – 2014) and how they build students’ positive learning identity through mathematical inquiry (2014 – 2016).
This body of research has influenced the way that mathematics is taught through a number of collaborations with industry (Queensland Department of Education and Training – DET). Two frameworks—Guided Mathematical Inquiry and an Evidence Cycle—developed by Makar and the teachers in her research—were used by DET to embed mathematical inquiry through the Queensland adoption of the new Australian Curriculum for Mathematics. The writing team of DET’s “Curriculum to Classroom (C2C)” Initiative created 44 units of mathematical inquiry in Prep – Year 9, with weekly consultations with Makar over two years. The Guided Mathematical Inquiry framework structured every inquiry through four phases: Discover, Devise, Develop and Defend. These phases ensure that students are supported in mathematical investigations and have opportunities to explore, discuss and persuasively justify ideas with peers. Makar’s inquiry research also resulted in three other industry collaborations: a US$200,000 contract with US educational technology company Amplify Learning to create a probability and statistics tablet-based curriculum using inquiry-based learning; a two-week intensive professional development tour for New Zealand’s Cognition Education; and a recent research collaboration with the Executive Director of the Australian Academy of Science and Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers’ $7.4 million Commonwealth initiative Mathematics by Inquiry.