What mathematical problem solving could students participate in when engaged in the Guided Inquiry, Record Breaking: Are athletes getting better over time? The openended nature of this question lends itself to students devising multiple solution pathways as students consider the authenticity of the context. The ambiguity of the word ‘athletes’ means an answer depends upon whether students focus on women, men or children. Does getting ‘better’ mean faster, jumping higher/further, lifting more? Described in detail in the Record Breaking inquiry unit (Thinking Through Mathematics, Book 3, unit 8), adaptations for conducting the inquiry in different year levels – and alignment with the Australian Curriculum in each of these year levels – can be found below on this Research Page of the IMPACT website. An article exploring this inquiry has recently been published in the Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom journal (Muir & Wells, 2019) and includes further illustrations of the mathematics in action in an Australian Year 5/6 classroom. These illustrations include different data displays typical of the work produced by students and exchanges made by students that include conclusions made in the Defend phase. From the article: Student's refined question: Are athletes getting better at jumping?
The Guided Inquiry approach provided students in Year 5/6 the opportunity to engage in authentic mathematical problem solving that required understanding of data representations, and fluency with interpretation, beyond simplistic representations. The reasoning by students (see the above example) required explanation of their analysis and evaluation of authentic data (about athletes) to justify conclusions reached in the Defend phase. From Muir, T. & Wells, J. (2019). Are athletes getting better over time? Australian Primary Mathematics Classroom, 24(3), 1520.
Students:
Year Six Students determine the number of pools that might run in a competition, by drawing on their knowledge of triangular numbers. A handball tournament can be one way to identify triangular numbers and represent them using a real life context.
Year Five Students decide on an appropriate inquiry question that could be answered if the class conducted a tournament. As a class, have students decide how pool participants will be determined (random, seeded, etc.). Pool members can construct a workable draw and data collection sheet which includes match results and durations.
The full version of Round Robin: Who is the best handball player in our class? is available in the Members section of this site. For further information regarding alignment with the Australian Curriculum: Mathematics, including how the inquiry supports student development in each of the Proficiencies, please download the alignment document we have created.
We hope you enjoy running a handball tournament in your classroom. Record breaking is an inquiry unit you will find on the Resources page of this website. The inquiry can also be found in Book 3 of the Thinking through mathematics series, for students aged 1013 years. An excellent way to mathematically consider records broken at the Olympic, Commonwealth, Paralympic, Pacific or Youth Olympics (depending on which is most relevant to your location and the year), in this inquiry students explore the notion that athletic ability has continued to improve over time. This is a popular classroom topic and such an inquiry could take place in many different year levels. The beauty of inquiry pedagogy is the ability to open tasks up so students of various abilities can successfully participate  low floor, high ceiling tasks. Here we consideration, with a little imagination, ways in which you might adapt this unit for your own year level. Foundation Year Consider whether students can jump further from a standing jump or a frog jump. Direct comparison to determine which is longer. Each student jumps. Records which jump was further (using markers to enable comparison) and then yes/no questions are asked to determine the most common response for the class.
Year One Similar to above, but the students measure their jumps using informal objects. This provides an opportunity to discuss the need for uniform objects (imagine if you wanted to compare each other’s jumps). Count and record the jumps. How could we record the class data? What does the data mean? What would the data look like for other classes (inference).
Year Two Consider whether students get better at jumping over time. Have the student record a jump. Practise jumping for a short period each day and then record the jump distance and weekly intervals. After three jumps (say three consecutive Mondays), students compare their jump data (you could use lengths of string/wool – blue for first jump, red for second, green for third etc). Did students jump further with practice? How can they record this data? What inferences can they make? Measure the string lengths with informal objects, how much further/less did the student jump from one jump to the next? Show your working (evidence).
Year Three As Year 2, however the measurement are now able to be made in centimetres.
Year Four As at Yr 3, with the additional connection between metric measures (metres and centimetres) and decimal place value notation. ie 123 cm is 1m 23cm. NB measurement should not be used to introduce decimal notation but only introduced once decimal PV is in place. With this age group, consider the jumping events as these use length to two decimal places only (cm). Using timed events involves students with Base 60 and, if using hundredths (eg running or swimming) or thousandths of seconds (eg kayaking) – this can be quite difficult.
Year Five Intended year level of document. Be very careful of using events as cautioned in Year 4 notes).
Year Six As Year 5 with the additional connection between metric measures (metres and centimetres) and decimal place value notation. ie 123 cm is 1m 23cm is 1.23m. Opportunities to extend the maths for this age would include: average time, proportional reasoning (Is the 200m run in twice the time of the 100m etc).
At all levels where students are constructing data representations (graphs, tables, tallies etc) – there are multiple opportunities to compare these representations and discuss the relative merits of, for example, a stem and leaf plot with a line graph.
We hope you are able to adapt the inquiry, Record Breaking: Are athletes getting better over time? , to your own year level. 
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