The Four Corners COMMIT is a member of the COMmunities for Mathematics Inquiry in Teaching (COMMIT) Network. If you in the Four Corners region and have a passion for teaching mathematics at the college level, please join the Four Corners COMMIT Google Group.

What is a COMMIT?

A regional COMmunity for Mathematics Inquiry in Teaching (COMMIT) is a local group of college mathematics educators interested in practicing and disseminating teaching and learning techniques centered on student inquiry. These communities aim to provide evidence-based support mechanisms, through professional development, mentoring, and collaborations, to help members sustainably transform their teaching. COMMIT communities provide ongoing access to professional development without the need of a plane ticket to a national conference or workshop. Each community is in a better position to understand the needs of instructors of the local region than a national organization can be, thus allowing for a grassroots route to bringing an inquiry experience to every student. Our local communities of practitioners develop trusting relationships, forming a community of transformation in which participants are comfortable sharing not only their successes in teaching but also their challenges.

Each COMMIT community is part of the COMMIT Network. This network brings together the leadership teams of all the communities under one loose structure. Representatives from each community in the network meet multiple times each year to share successes, present opportunities, and discuss challenges. This network also provides an organizational structure to identify and pursue common goals within the greater COMMIT movement.

What is Inquiry-Based Learning

There are many terms used to describe approaches to the teaching and learning of mathematics that are based on student inquiry. Two of the major strands that informed the first communities in our network are the practice-focused tradition of Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL), and the theory-focused tradition of Inquiry-Oriented Instruction (IOI), both of which are represented in our communities. Their common goals are often summarized by the four pillars:

  1. Instructors foster equity in their design and facilitation choices;
  2. Students have opportunities to engage deeply with rich mathematics;
  3. Students have opportunities to collaborate in making sense of that mathematics;
  4. Instructors inquire into student thinking.

For more information concerning the four pillars of IBL, see Laursen, S.L., Rasmussen, C. I on the Prize: Inquiry Approaches in Undergraduate Mathematics. Int. J. Res. Undergrad. Math. Ed. 5, 129–146 (2019). There are many names for mathematics instruction with approaches that are aligned with these principles; and thus there are instructors with a variety of backgrounds and starting points who have found value in membership and participation in these communities. Some of these approaches include problem-based learning, student-centered teaching, active learning, ambitious teaching, discovery learning, process-oriented guided inquiry learning, complex instruction, and culturally responsive teaching.

National workshops have been offered for over a decade by the Academy of Inquiry-Based Learning, which have helped the international IBL community evolve toward the “big tent” view of IBL being inclusive of any course that adheres to the above pillars and includes practices from many of the related teaching practices described above. You can find more information about these workshops on the [AIBL website(http://www.inquirybasedlearning.org).

Why use Inquiry-Based Learning?

Evidence-based active learning strategies, such as IBL and IOI in college mathematics (called Inquiry-Based Mathematics Education, or IBME), have received significant endorsements in recent years. They allow students to engage in rich mathematics and gives them opportunities to collaborate, while instructors inquire into student thinking and facilitate equitable engagement. IBME is associated with teaching mathematics for deeper understanding, and can have a significant and persistent positive impact on undergraduate women in mathematics as well as previously lower-achieving students. For more information about the impacts of inquiry teaching, please see:

Equity in Mathematics

The Four Corners COMMIT is dedicated to teaching practices that promote equity and inclusion. We observe that people in mathematics have historically marginalized or excluded or marginalized particular people from the discipline – Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color including Hispanic and Latine people, women, and LGBTQ+ people, among others. We seek to undo the harm that these attitudes have caused. We view Inquiry-Based Learning as a way to advance equity and inclusion by deeply engaging students, providing students with opportunities to collaborate with their peers, focusing on student thinking, and making pedagogical choices that foster equity. We also acknowledge that some student-centered teaching methods are rooted in the teaching methods of R.L. Moore, but we join with the Academy of Inquiry-Based Learning in explicitly stating that the Moore Method is not IBL. We choose to explicitly make this distinction because of Moore’s well-documented racism.

Stan Yoshinobu’s excellent blog post Owning IBL History provides an important perspective on where the history of the IBL movement.