Generating questions

MTBoS blogging initiative, week 3!  This week’s prompt focuses on questioning.

My colleague, who teaches the grade 6 and grade 7 math courses at my school is in training to run a marathon.  He has put together a training program for himself, which includes a schedule of endurance-building, and he has been collecting data with a GPS watch.  As he examined the data, he thought that this might make a rich exploration for his students and we have been working together to set up a project  for them.

Here is what the raw data looks like

We started with the driving question: How long will Mr. Feutz take to complete the Limassol marathon? and then we began by brainstorming questions together.

• How long will Mr. Feutz take to complete the marathon?
• How many steps will he take to complete the marathon?
• How many calories will he burn during the run?
• What percentage of his overall time will be spent moving?  (Compared to taking breaks)
• What will his average heart rate be during the marathon (In B.P.M.)?
• What will be the shortest/longest mile time, and what is the range between these?

We tried to analyse which questions are actually interesting, and what might we be able to ask kids to do with them.  While running, he found that he was constantly doing math of one sort or another.  How much further will I run today? When will I arrive back at home?  Things that he had genuine curiosity about, and questions that math gives us the power to answer.

We set up a graphic organizer, and decided to ask our driving question directly.  Here are some of the kids’ initial responses.

They always manage to think of something that we haven’t anticipated (…which is why we love kids!).  “Will you be listening to music, because if it’s like… Taylor Swift, you wouldn’t be as inspired as if it was like… hard rock.”  Students were given a graphic organizer and asked to write their first guesses.   As they acquire more information, they will refine their estimates.  Part of the beauty of this work is that they will get to actually test their prediction, and compare their answer to what actually happens.

Students will revisit this project over the next weeks, and will be asked to refine their work.  They have already studied unit rates, and are moving into work on ratio and proportion next.  We are hoping that more questions will arise as we continue this work.  My favorite so far is, “Given a start time, time spent running so far, and a map of the run, can you figure out where Mr. Feutz is now?”

Here is our Graphic Organizer – totally open to your critique and suggestions.  What questions can you add to our list, and how do you come up with your project questions?  We would be most grateful if you share your curiosities or strategies in the comments.

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4 thoughts on “Generating questions”

1. Nat Post author

Hi Teri,

The real life data never works out quite as cleanly as the problems in our text, but that is part of the beauty of a task like this. Thanks for checking in.

1. Sarah

I love how the math builds on a personal connection for students – they actually know this person! Plus, sharing about the math done while running is such a great real-life example of when the concepts get used. I know I don’t consciously think about all the math I’m using when I do such calculations in my head myself, but it definitely requires some foundational understandings!

1. Nat Post author

Hi Sarah, and thanks for your comment. The personal connection is definitely nice for students. They love Mr. Feutz!

We often don’t think about all of the math we use unconsciously, but 6th or 7th grade students are just learning and practicing with these new and powerful tools. This feels like an opportunity to help them to clarify and relate the math they know to questions they have.