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Inquiry-Based Learning Builds Mathematical Confidence

Shannon Sheehan (Liberal Studies, ’18) took a different kind of calculus class, one that used Inquiry-Based Learning. In this video, she talks about how this method inspired her to appreciate making sense of math problems, collaborating with fellow students, and even getting stuck. 

Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) is a learning-centered method of teaching mathematics. Rather than showing facts or a clear, smooth path to a solution, the instructor guides students via well-crafted problems through an adventure in mathematical discovery. Students are given tasks requiring them to solve problems, conjecture, experiment, explore, create and communicate — skills and habits of mind that mathematicians engage in regularly. 

Liberal studies majors’ mathematics courses are based on IBL so that students can apply the method in their future classroom. 

Mathematics Professor Stan Yoshinobu is nationally recognized for his work in developing IBL workshops to help college math instructors learn to use this teaching method, which has been shown to improve learning, reduce math anxiety and close the gender achievement gap in math classes.

Currently, a limited number of faculty members nationwide have access to IBL workshops each year. With a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation, Yoshinobu and his collaborators aim to at least triple the number of workshop facilitators and add different types of professional development opportunities to better meet the needs of the math profession.

“I think the point for liberal studies majors is to be open and ready to learn via IBL and be patient with being stuck,” Yoshinobu said. “The rewards are great and will help liberal studies majors become wonderful, impactful teachers."

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