The first unit of inquiry grade two embarked on this year was a study of ways in which we are enriched by our own cultures and the cultures we connect with throughout our lives.

As we began asking questions along a line of inquiry exploring similarities and differences between cultures, we struggled with ways to collect and make sense of the answers.

Among the Mathematics learning outcomes for this year, in the Data Handling strand, is the Conceptual Understanding that Data can be collected, organized, displayed and analyzed in different ways. This was a perfect opportunity to bring together Maths learning with our Inquiry studies.

Students began by building on the sort of questions that had been bubbling up already by brainstorming a wide range of curiosities about differences and similarities amongst families and cultures.

I challenged them to find answers to their questions from our class. Each student chose a different question of personal importance or interest and used their previous knowledge of collecting answers to their questions to go about surveying their peers.

Each student had recorded the data in different ways so we took some time to analyze the features of their data collection systems and students explained the thinking behind their strategies. One student recalled having made graphs of data in the past, as a way of clearly presenting the information, so students discussed what they remembered about this, and had a go at making their own from the data they’d collected.

We compared the varied graphing strategies students had used and the conclusions they had been able to draw from their data. We followed this with a discussion of what we thought some of the most successful features of data collection systems had been, that had allowed for us to most clearly, accurately and quickly collect information.

In small groups, students worked together to build new data collection tools, based on our previous discussions and examples, to most effectively get answers to the questions they were posing.


Students collaborate on a data collection tool.

With these complete, groups presented their tools to the class and used the questions and suggestions to refine their tools before trying them out.

Students present their collaboratively-created tools for class questions and suggestions.

Finally, it was time to put our team-created and class-critiqued tools to the test, by surveying the class. How accurate, clear and fast would the tools allow our data collection to be?


Students test their tools by surveying their peers.

Having collected data with their tools, groups used the Two Stars and a Wish reflection strategy to identify two elements that had worked exceptionally well about their designs, and one feature they could improve upon.

We shared these with the rest of the class and developed a collaborative list of features we all considered key to making a data collection tool as Fast, Accurate and Clear as possible.

Students used this list to support their posing of a final, independent question. They each created their personal, ultimate data collection tool and surveyed the class.

Students apply new understandings in creating their own super-data-collection tools.

Finally, we came back to the discussion of graphing and presenting our data. I introduced the simple graphing features of the Pages application to the class and we looked at how our understanding changed depending on the wide variety of ways we could display the data. Some students considered pie graphs to be most appropriate for communicating their answers, others preferred bar graphs. Each student explained the thinking behind their choices for a way to present their data.

We reflected on our learning through this process as being a design cycle. We looked at our original data collection tools and graphs, how they’d been improved through discussion and group work, then further improved by presentation and critique, tested by trying them in action, better understood through reflection and sharing our learning and finally improved in our individual final tools and graphs.

In reflection, one student mentioned proudly how much better his final survey and graphing worked, compared to his first attempt. Yes, agreed another, but we could still make them better next time…


The orange posters above are from the classroom display I created to document this inquiry process. All photos are my own.

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One Response to The Elementary Design Cycle: Integrated Math, Unit of Inquiry & Technology

  1. Awesome! I am always in awe of the organic way that learning happens in a PYP classroom, and particularly yours. So wonderful to see the students making connections to previous learning and to develop new ideas through the investigation process.

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