Math Talk in the Classroom (Part 2)

If you missed the Math Talk in the Classroom (Part 1), be sure to check it out!

Now that expectations have been set for how students will participate in math talk, it’s time to practice talking about math!  Yes, we must give our students the opportunity to practice talking because they don’t always know how to talk the way we want them to.  In order to practice talking about math, it is important that students are talking about something they are comfortable with so that the focus of the discussion is on the talk and not the content.  Before students can wrestle with rich content, they must first understand how to communicate their thinking in a productive way. 

Why do students need to practice talking about math?
Students need to practice upholding the expectations for math talk, while also gaining experience listening and interacting with the reasoning of others.  In the book Classroom Discussions in Math, the authors touch on the importance of students understanding that they may agree or disagree with an idea, not a person.  When students learn to agree and disagree with an idea, rather than a person, the discussion becomes more focused on the content and students’ desire to learn.  Another way to keep students focused in the discussion is to set the expectation that students must respond directly to or build upon what was previously said.  This minimizes students’ tendency to think only about what they want to say, rather than listening to what others are saying.

Giving students the opportunity to practice talking about math is also beneficial for us as teachers!  It gives us practice facilitating math discussions.  If this is something you are newly incorporating into your teaching routine, this is a great opportunity for you to practice using higher order thinking questions to facilitate the discussion!  

How can we give students practice talking about math?
Now that you know why students (and teachers) need to practice talking about math, let me share with you how I plan to give students this practice.  I am so excited to use the book Which One Doesn’t Belong this year to teach students how to talk math.  The math talk that can happen with this book makes my brain dance!  The book is set up with four different shapes on each page and a question that simply asks students to decide, “which one doesn’t belong”?  All four of the shapes on each page can be the correct answer to the question, which means students will really have to think and talk about WHY each one doesn’t belong.  Because students think differently, they will have different paths of reasoning making for rich discussion (and many opportunities to practice upholding math talk expectations).  Do you see how powerful this book can be?  Below are a couple of images that Talking Math With Kids has provided for you to use in your own classroom!

If you are looking for more resources to use in your classroom to get students comfortable talking about math, Would You Rather Math and the Which One Doesn’t Belong blog are wonderful in that they provide many images that require deep thinking and strong reasoning.

I am truly looking forward to using these resources to give students practice talking about math and to provide students with a fun experience as they grow their reasoning skills.  As I discussed in Math Talk in the Classroom (Part 1), math talk has so many benefits beyond what I have shared in this post.  Check back soon for Math Talk in the Classroom (Part 3), where I will dive into using math talk to further students understanding of mathematical concepts!

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