Early adolescents may lack the cognitive and metacognitive skills necessary for effective inquiry learning. In particular, they are likely to have a nonnormative mental model of multivariable causality in which effects of individual variables are neither additive nor consistent. Described here is a software-based intervention designed to facilitate students' metalevel and performance-level inquiry skills by enhancing their understanding of multivariable causality. Relative to an exploration-only group, sixth graders who practiced predicting an outcome (earthquake risk) based on multiple factors demonstrated increased attention to evidence, improved metalevel appreciation of effective strategies, and a trend toward consistent use of a controlled comparison strategy. Sixth graders who also received explicit instruction in making predictions based on multiple factors showed additional improvement in their ability to compare multiple instances as a basis for inferences and constructed the most accurate knowledge of the system. Gains were maintained in transfer tasks. The cognitive skills and metalevel understanding examined here are essential to inquiry learning. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 40: 898–921, 2003