This book addresses why inquiry-based learning is effective pedagogy in mathematics and science education, and provides suggestions on implementation and assessment of problem-based learning (PBL). Author Diane Ronis provides many sample projects in her book. Each example begins with an overview of the mathematics , science and technology standards (from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, The National Science Education Standards and the National Education Technology Standards project, respectively) that the project seeks to fulfill. Instructions, including student handouts, are provided, as well as suggestions to modify the project to meet different abilities and goals.
The first three chapters of the book focus on the value of PBL in math and science education. The author states that inquiry-based learning is a better approach for engaging students and promoting mathematical and scientific literacy than the traditional "teacher-centered" approach. References to the research of educators and cognitive scientists buttress the authors assertions. In chapter three, the author outlines the meta-structure of PBL.
The fourth chapter provides a guide for implementing PBL in the classroom and incorporating the technique into current curricula. Chapter five provides suggestions for alternative (non-testing) assessment of inquiry-based learning and offers directions for rubric design and use. The final chapter illustrates PBL as a service learning opportunity. The appendix offers a description of web-based resources and tools for students.
The book is intended as a handbook for K–12 educators interested in problem-based learning. It is likely best suited for middle grades. The author provides sample projects, together with rubrics and suggestions for modification, that allow new users an opportunity to experiment with PBL without incurring the high start-up costs of developing a program from scratch. Unfortunately, the projects do contain some technical inaccuracies (predominately math and physics), so users should be cautious.
I would recommend this book for classroom teachers interested in incorporating problem-based learning projects to complement traditional lessons. The argument in support of PBL is a bit long — if you are reading a book on implementing inquiry-based learning, aren't you already a believer? — but the guidelines on using and assessing such projects, as well as the ready-to-use samples, make this a worthwhile resource.
Chris Tweddle (ct55@evansville.edu) is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of Evansville. His interests include partial differential equations (especially as tools for image processing), undergraduate research, and training pre-service teachers of mathematics.