Article Details

Redesigning Student Research

March 3, 2022
Author: Nicholas Kurian
An opportunity has almost been squandered: with all the interest in fake news and teaching students to verify sources, research itself needs to be reinvented.

Research in Math Class?

After high school, the word “research” implies some kind of data. But there is almost no room for research in the current K-12 math curriculum. What a shame! There has never been more free, high-quality data available to the public.

It is easy to download and there are simple procedures to analyze it. A middle school student can find averages; more advanced students can conduct more sophisticated analyses. And the subjects are broad: UN data has everything from diseases to literacy rates to metrics related to war.

Student-centered, rigorous, differentiable, and practical AND philosophical – let’s put researching into the math curriculum.

Useful resources:

Snowball Research

All too many research projects resemble glorified book reports – the students are simply filling out information that they found.


And not how research is done in many exciting fields.

When an entrepreneur is doing research into a potential market, she is exploring. She expects to find things she did not expect. One “lead” guides her to another, and her final destination is somewhere she did not expect.

A good way to do this type of research with students is “root cause” analysis. Have your students ask a question they are interested in: “Why did Russia invade Ukraine?” and then ask why FIVE TIMES to get to a root cause.

The answers are always surprising.

A great example of root cause analysis:

Research Journal

Tell your students that if they are not developing questions while they read, they are not paying attention.

It is not sufficient to take notes; true interest is signaled by QUESTIONS.

Have them log those questions and then give them time to answer the questions.

After a bit of time, a research diary can be a fruitful resource for other projects. (A great benefit is that it is easy to monitor – an entry every time they read.)

How do you incorporate research in your class?
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