Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Katherine P. Dabney

Second Advisor

Dr. Christine Trinter

Third Advisor

Dr. Ross Collin

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Maike Philipsen


Current educational leaders call for students to build his or her own mathematical understanding from experiences, coupled with feedback from peers, teachers, and themselves and gain a conceptual understanding of mathematics. Researchers agree that inquiry in the elementary mathematics classroom can help increase conceptual understanding.

This case study focused on how elementary teachers define inquiry-based mathematics and implement it in their classrooms. Interviews, observations and lesson analysis were used to investigate what identities, relationships and activities look like in an elementary classroom that uses inquiry.

All of the participants felt "problem solving" and "working collaboratively" were essential for inquiry but each teacher defined them differently. Questioning was also an important feature of inquiry according to the teachers. Professional development seemed to have a strong impact on why these teachers use inquiry in their classrooms. As far as the relationships necessary to teach using inquiry, teachers did not indicate that administrators’ nor peers’ support were necessary to continue using this type of pedagogy in their classrooms. The participants believed that including inquiry in mathematics was a best practice and continued to incorporate inquiry because they felt it allowed their students to gain a deeper understanding of mathematics.

The local field of each teacher influenced the planning they did before the lesson and the activities they included in their inquiry instruction. The written plans of each participant differed greatly. The requirements of the district had an effect on how much detail the participants included in their planning documents. Also, whether they were planning for their entire grade level or just themselves influenced how much detail was included. Another aspect of the mathematics classroom that was influenced by the local field was including a software program, which is expected to be a part of students’ daily mathematics instruction. The various ways inquiry is carried out and how the local field influences this is important for educators at all levels to understand.

This study has implications for teachers, administrators and teacher educators. Inquiry means a variety of things to elementary teachers within this study. If mathematics educator leaders, teachers and administrators want to infuse more inquiry into the classroom, the many ways it is carried out needs to be understood.


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