Tool IG-2: IBL and values in mathematics

For this tool you will need the following resource:

  • IG-2 PowerPoint

download_powerpointThis tool focuses on the purposes of mathematics education. Particular emphasis is placed on the need to allow individuals to understand not just the products, but also the processes, of mathematics. Teachers discuss the potential of IBL to introduce students to mathematical processes.

Begin by asking teachers why mathematics is important. Why do they teach mathematics?

A synthesis of what 'official' reports in mathematics education say

The above image shows a synthesis of what ‘official’ reports in mathematics education say about why mathematics is important. You might like to refer to recent reports related to mathematics education in the UK and elsewhere, which put forward views about the purpose of mathematics education.

This blog synthesises the purposes given in reports published in the UK from January 2011, stating that:

The main arguments for the importance of mathematics … fall into three … areas: mathematics is a core skill for all adults in life generally; a mathematically well educated population will contribute to the country’s economic prosperity; and mathematics is important for its own sake.

Discuss the extent to which these purposes resonate with the values of teachers in the group (and with those of their students).


Now ask the teachers to work in pairs to think about what mathematics should be taught, and how it should be taught. You could refer them to the synthesis of recommendations given in recent reports in the UK on a different area of the same blog (above). These include:

  • the importance of upholding values specific to mathematics (e.g. reasoning and application);
  • more problem solving and modelling;
  • the application of mathematics in realistic and complex settings;
  • teaching of mathematics in other subject areas.

teamwork Bring the group together and ask the pairs to share their thoughts. Now discuss with them how well inquiry approaches might provide ways to teach the mathematics they value. The discussion will depend on what the pairs contribute when they feed back to the whole group.

nextstepsAsk the teachers to think about a lesson that they will be teaching in the next week where new concepts or content will be introduced and to consider how they could use an inquiry approach in this lesson. Where possible they should try this approach in the classroom and be ready to share their reflections at the next session.