Inquiry-Based Learning in Mathematics

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Most college students are required to take at least one mathematics course. Many of these students view mathematics as a dry and tedious subject, where the main task is to “plug and chug” using formulas. In contrast, mathematicians see mathematics as a creative process in which real joy comes from grappling with difficult problems and (hopefully) solving them. In this way, mathematics is like a fun puzzle. The challenge is to get students to view mathematics the same way that their teachers do. Inquiry-based learning (IBL) can help solve this problem. The Academy of Inquiry-Based Learning describes IBL as a pedagogical method that encourages students to conjecture, discover, solve, explore, collaborate, and communicate (What is IBL? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.inquirybasedlearning.org/?page=What_is_IBL). With IBL, teachers do not lay out all of the formulas and theorems as previous knowledge. Nor do they provide perfect, easily worked through examples and proofs for every new topic. Instead, IBL courses demonstrate the creative process that is mathematics. IBL makes class more enjoyable for both teachers and students, and can bring students closer to the real experiences of mathematicians.