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For the Explore phase, the nature of the Problem suggests whether students work individually, in pairs, in small groups, or occasionally as a whole class to solve the Problem. The teacher support suggests an appropriate grouping. As students work, they gather data, share ideas, look for patterns, make conjectures, and develop problem-solving strategies. It is inevitable that students will exhibit variation in their progress. The teacher’s role during this phase is twofold as described below:

Providing for Individual Needs

The Explore phase provides an opportunity for a teacher to observe and interact with individual and small groups. The teacher moves about the classroom, observing individual performance and encouraging on-task behavior. The teacher helps students persevere in their work by asking appropriate questions and providing confirmation and redirection where needed. For students who are interested in and capable of deeper investigation, the teacher may provide extra questions related to the Problem. These questions are called Going Further and are provided in the teacher support. Suggestions for helping students who may be struggling are also provided. The Explore is an appropriate time to attend to differentiated learning.

The following questions can help the teacher prepare for the Explore:

  • How will I organize the students to explore this Problem? (Individuals? Pairs? Groups? Whole class?)
  • What materials will students need?
  • How should students record and report their work?
  • What different strategies can I anticipate they might use?
  • What questions can I ask to encourage student conversation, thinking, and learning?
  • What questions can I ask to focus their thinking if they become frustrated or off-task?
  • What questions can I ask to challenge students if the initial question is "answered"?
  • What difficulties are students having?
  • How can I help without giving away the solution?
  • What strategies are students using? Are they correct?
  • How will I use these strategies during the summary?

Planning for the Summary

As the teacher moves about the classroom during the Explore, she or he should attend to the following questions:

  • What evidence do I have from the Explore that can be used to support student understanding of the Focus Question during the summary?
  • How will I organize the discussion?
  • What will I do if I have insufficient evidence to support the summary?