Time to launch an ‘Inquiry’ on the academy…

Posted by Marcus on Nov 30, 2015

In this week’s think-piece I will be analysing further the usefulness of Khan Academy. I will be considering the views pointed out in the video critique of Khan Academy by Michael Pershan as well as an article on ‘Inquiry math(s)’ by Andrew Blair. Pershan’s video considers ways in which Kahn Academy can be improved whereas Blair talks about a different way in which we can teach maths within our classrooms. Interestingly, Pershan’s ideas for the improvements of Khan Academy are similar to the model discussed by Blair.

In my last think-piece, I touched upon a couple of disadvantages of Khan Academy and this week another flaw has been brought to my attention. As a trainee teacher I have been taught about the importance of multiple representations whilst teaching different topics to students and this is an area that Pershan has highlighted as something that Khan Academy is lacking. I like the way that he shows the differences between a maths class in America and a maths class in Japan. I felt that the way the maths lesson was being taught in Japan was much more favourable than the American model. When considering Skemp’s ideas on the understanding of maths, the Japanese lesson looked to be promoting a much more relational understanding. I like the idea of posing a problem and then sending a student off on a journey without being told how to reach a desired outcome. I can see how this model would promote resilience as well as making for a conceptual understanding in the long run. I do however wonder if the model in Japan is easy to transfer to America, does culture have some part to play in student performance? Pershan urges Khan to consider structuring his academy in a slightly different way; a way that I believe will make Khan Academy much more useful when considering what we want our students to retain when using it.

Blair talks about replacing our current methods of teaching maths with a model called ‘Inquiry math(s)’. I think that this model appears to be quite interesting, it gives students a chance to ask questions or make observations on a given diagram or problem and then with the aid of a teacher a discussion can be held in order to for students to reach a conclusion through joint regulation. It’s very similar to the ideas posed by Dan Meyer when he talks about students becoming patient problem solvers. On one hand I can see how it would promote peer interaction and a deeper understanding, but on the other I could see it potentially leading to a point where students have gone in completely the wrong direction if the incorrect guidance is given by the teacher. This point is echoed by Blair when he says “teachers should also become proficient in conducting inquiries before they can expect improvements in students’ active learning”

When I consider the way I’m going to teach next year, the question that springs to mind is, should I be picking just one way? And I think my answer would be no. I don’t think it’s right to consider a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Every person and therefore every class are individual. So I will be using a mixture of the techniques that I have been introduced to throughout this module, and I will try my best to find the best approach for each of my classes whilst trying my best to promote a relational understanding of mathematics. One thing I am sure of is that I’m really looking forward to putting my ‘educational toolbox’ to use!


  1. Kkay
    30 November 2015

    This is a good analysis of both ideas, Marcus. I like the fact that you wonder if there may be a cultural difference between western and Asian cultures which implicitly may impact on the way students perceive learning altogether. And I agree with Persian on his analysis of khan academy. Yes it should improve. But do we need any more classrooms? these sites should not be mistaken with a classroom. They are just tools. Great read

  2. Senay
    2 December 2015

    I really enjoyed reading this Marcus. It is inspiring to see how you are engaging with the material and thinking how it will practically affect your teaching next year. I can see the question of culture cropping up throughout lots of the think-pieces and comments. This is something I think we need to discuss further. Would the Japanese model work in the UK with British children? If not, why not?

  3. pepsmccrea
    7 December 2015

    Great to see you digging in deep into the issues explored here, and analysing inquiry maths from a balanced perspective. You are also making lots of great links with previous ideas encountered. Like the idea of building a teaching toolbox

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