Last modified on 22 July 2009, at 02:58

SA NC Doing Investigations/Chapter 1

DOING INVESTIGATIONS: A RESOURCE BOOK FOR GET & FET MATHEMATICS & SCIENCE EDUCATORS

Preface

What is a resource book and why a resource book for investigations?

Introduction to the book and its theme: investigations

The wisdom of the winners: hints and ideas for science and mathematics educators

Ideas for investigations

Managing and assessing investigations

Examples of investigative activities in science and mathematics

Materials developed by the winning educators

Clusters, support networks and communities of practice

Scientific and mathematical literacy

Some useful URLs (internet addresses) for educators

What is a resource book and why a resource book for investigations?Edit

It may be useful first to start by considering what a resource book is not. You can't open a resource book and expect to find the answers to every question on every topic covered in the resource book because it is not an encyclopaedia. You can't open a resource book and expect to find every definition of every term and concept because a resource book is not a dictionary. You can't unfold a resource book and find the exact route between this idea and that one because it is not an atlas. You can't open a resource book and expect to find an exhaustive list of quick and easy methods for performing every activity on every topic because a resource book is not a recipe book. And you can't expect to find a detailed explanation of every important concept and how to grasp and understand it because a resource book is not a textbook. So if a resource book is none of these things it begs two questions: what exactly is it? And, if it is to be of any use at all, what must it do? ·

  • A resource book might be called a "starter pack". It could contain elements of each

feature mentioned above and could look like an encyclopaedia, or a dictionary, or an atlas, or a recipe book, or a textbook. But it won't contain enough of any one feature to call it that thing alone. ·

  • What resource books do contain are: ideas that start us on a critical re-think of areas

we may have taken for granted. They also contain:

    • hints, suggestions and ideas that start us thinking in new directions;
    • leads that start us developing completely new ideas;
    • some useful information on specific topics;
    • directions to other sources containing yet more useful information;
    • examples that illustrate ideas or plans e.g. lesson worksheets;
    • suggestions for actions that we can take to achieve certain goals.

This resource book is about investigations, mainly in science, somewhat in mathematics, to a small degree in technology and occasionally a combination of all three. Examples show how the investigation of some science topics involve a lot of good mathematics learning, and vice versa. When we do an investigation we make use of whatever tools and methods we can to find answers and increase our knowledge on a topic. We may even invent methods that help us, as Sir Isaac Newton did to help him develop his theory of gravity, discussed in the next section.

Some resource books are more comprehensive than others, but none is ever complete. The primary aim of this resource book is to put you on the right road and get you started on a journey. The journey is one of discovery therefore it cannot be mapped out perfectly ahead of time It may not give you all the answers to your every question but it will give you enough support and encouragement to get you going again ­ in this case on how to use investigations in your science and mathematics teaching.

Why a resource book for investigations?Edit

South Africa and South Africans have performed a social and political miracle over the past decade. But no society or nation prospers on warm, fuzzy feelings of political self- satisfaction. To perform the next stage of our miracle, South Africa's economy must grow. Economies need raw materials like minerals and agricultural products to do so. But as we say, while raw materials are necessary, they are not sufficient. Real economic growth only comes about when we have people with the skills to make our natural resources work for us. It's a simple equation, really:

Raw materials + well-educated, skilled people = high quality products + economic growth.

A growing economy means more people with jobs, better prospects and more fulfilling lives. That is the payoff for anyone backing either of the terms in the left hand side of our equation! The prospector for raw materials and those who promote good education in important areas of the curriculum are performing similar services for the country. As we peel away the layers of the growth equation, we find that certain disciplines are critically important in growing a modern economy, notably mathematics, language and science. Close on their heels are technology and entrepreneurship.

This resource book aims, through investigations in science, mathematics and technology, to teach the following skills critical to economic growth:

  • Learning to look rather than just seeing
  • Understanding concepts in science and mathematics by working with them in

relevant, practical situations, not merely studying them theoretically.

  • Collecting evidence (data) from real-life situations and using mathematical tools to

make sense of it.

  • Designing and making devices and apparatus to help in the collection of data (e.g.

making measurements) during the investigation.

  • Developing and using creativity, ingenuity and insight in investigations.
  • Taking initiative in the solving of problems.

Our hope is that by encouraging learner independence in the new curriculum, we will aid the development of critical, economic skills. The connection may seem slight but those skills are absolutely necessary to set South Africa on its economic renaissance. Although it is a cliche, it really is true that every journey begins with the first step! This resource book on investigations is intended to be that first step, or at least to help it.