Thursday, July 8, 2010

Reflections on Project Based Learning

I had the pleasure of taking part in the first ever #elemchat on Twitter. I did say at one point that I simply couldn't fit my thoughts into 140 characters, so I decided to start a blog.

I came into the #elemchat with questions and anxiety, as I knew the topic would be PBL, or project based learning. I just wasn't sure what the term meant, and was a little worried that I would need to add one more thing onto my LONG list of things I want to do with my grade two class next year! As the chat started to pick up, I discovered that I have already decided my Math time will spend a lot of time in this PBL setup... I was just going to call it "Investigations".

In fact, I was so excited with this, because I attended a PD workshop yesterday with Cathy Fosnot from We recently received kits that are fully based on what she calls "Investigations." She started off the day by having all 150 attendees participate in an investigation involving counting in a brand new number system she calls X-mania (based on a base-6 system using letters.) As the hour went on, we discovered the place value system that was there... we figured out what number would follow AAC, and what number would follow A--. Then we discovered that A-- was A- groups of A-... That our snap cubes formed a square... we progressed through by making discoveries, all guided by our workshop leader, but they were OUR discoveries. We owned them. What a great way to demonstrate Project Based Learning!

I'm determined to add some of her Math investigations into my instruction over the coming year, and I'll let you know how it all works! I'm so pumped about this, it's almost a shame I have to wait until September!


  1. Hello David,
    I was also in the #elemchat this afternoon. It was amazing to read all of the comments from people. I loved your first blog post.
    I loved what you posted from your workshop with Cathy Fosnot. Have you had a chance to read her book, Young Mathematicians at Work?" It's fabulous.

    Like you I teach grade two in Alberta. Our whole math curriculum has changed and I've been a huge part of the change in training teachers to think about how they teach math to kids and how to understand the new curriculum. You might want to Google or seek out information about Grayson Wheatley. He has several books which talk about visual and spatial awareness in math. The two books I recommend are Coming to Know Number and Quickdraw. If you want more information about them just ask. I'm @maxxakahotdog on Twitter.

    I do a lot of "Investigations" in math. The kids love them. I've done one of Penguins. I found a book called 365 Penguins. It's a great book to use for math and starting your own project or investigation.

    If you are interested I'd like to team up with you this year so we could compare communities and perhaps work on a PBL together?

    Looking forward to seeing more of you on Twitter.

    April Brown

  2. Sounds like you "have the spark" tonight! I know the feeling! Although I'm fifth grade and NOT math, I sure like the title of "Investigations." It gives some authenticity to the process of discovery! It could also lead into some neat crime-scene/scientist themes!

    I'm looking forward to reading your thoughts as you work towards September!


  3. Hi April,

    Thanks for your comment! I haven't yet had a chance to read her book, but I'll definitely look into getting a hold of it. I always love getting recommendations for professional reading! I'll have to check out Grayson Wheatley as well... oh and 365 Penguins... geez, it's a good thing I've got nearly two months before I have to go back!

    Thanks again for the comment, it's helpful for me just to type out my thoughts, but it's also encouraging to know that someone else finds those thoughts helpful (and can ADD to those thoughts!)

    I'd love to work together with you. I'll send you a message on Twitter to follow up on this!

  4. Infectious enthusiasm David!

    I'm looking forward to following your blog and seeing how your einvestigations progress!

    Thanks April for the great resources ... I can't wait to check them out.


  5. Thanks Ryan!

    I'm fairly new to Twitter, but I have been to a few edchats. I really found this one to be very practical... and the fact that it matched with recent learning that I was already excited about, it made this chat that much more useful.

    I look forward to reading your thoughts as well!

    Happy summer!

  6. Thanks Geoff, I'm looking forward to seeing how things progress too!

    Happy summer!

  7. I'm so excited to see you blogging--another to add to my list of must-reads!

    A few years ago, when I still taught Math, I went to a few PD sessions based on Fosnot's work and we developed several Investigations suitable for grades 5 and 6. I loved doing these with my class, and offered to be a "guest" in a few other classes in my building to do the Investigations with them. The processes that the students went through was so eye-opening; it was wonderful watching them make discoveries and developing an understanding of mathematical concepts.


  8. Hey MrsC!

    Glad to have you reading! Fosnot's work is excellent... I look forward to reading some more of her books.