How to get started with Math Talks

There has been much written about the value of math talks in the classroom as a tool to engage students and strengthen understanding. Math talks or math discussions is a technique that also helps students see themselves, and their classmates, as valued mathematical thinkers. Research suggests that when students talk more about their math thinking, they are more motivated to learn, and they learn more! It also provides teachers with a valuable form of assessment, giving them insight into what students have mastered and where they still need assistance. Here are a few ideas to try in your classroom to promote more math conversations.

Promote Questioning Throughout the Lesson

The Moving with Math lessons with the Concrete – Representational – Abstract (CRA) instructional model incorporate math discourse into the classroom every day. Manipulatives are used to introduce all math concepts and allow students with varying learning styles to explore, discover and communicate their understanding. Lessons are designed to help foster more student conversation and less teacher talk. Lightly-scripted lesson plans give teachers engaging activities and questions to develop meaningful classroom discussions and foster small group interaction.

Manipulatives are used in the introductory part of the lessons and provide an engaging way to begin classroom discussions. When students are introduced to the base ten blocks, they are asked to find similarities and differences between the blocks. “How are the blocks alike? How are they different? Questioning helps to introduce mathematical ideas and concepts as well as build on those ideas throughout the lesson.

Foster Small Group Conversation about Word Problems
Helping students tackle word problems is a focus for most teachers. Moving with Math’s five-part problem solving model provides a framework that gives students a plan for success. Students are introduced to the steps and strategies and then can work in pairs or small groups to solve problems. This small group setting gives students a chance to share and verbalize their ideas and may help ELL students who might feel more comfortable asking questions in a smaller setting.

Explicitly Teach How to have Math Conversations

Sentence starters are a great way to teach students about meaningful math conversations. Teachers use sentence starters to encourage peer communication and foster language acquisition in small groups or as a whole class. They can also be used to build on knowledge or to discover student strategies. For example, students can explain their moves in a game or strategies for playing a game using teacher provided sentence starters.

In the game “What’s My Secret?”, students select fraction strips that are alike in one way. To guess the secret, students could be given the starter. “The fraction bars are alike because _______________?”

Sentence starts are a great way To Connect Ideas. Teachers could start with “Subtraction and regrouping are connected because_____________? They are also a wonderful way to Extend Thinking, teachers could use the starter “Subtraction and division are similar because_____________?

Insightful Formative Assessment Options
In addition to summative assessments there are many formative assessments built-in throughout the curriculum. There are SUM it Up, Conceptual Understanding, Key Ideas and Journal Prompts that each promote math discussion and give teachers opportunities to assess understanding in different ways.

If you want to learn more about how math talk is woven into our lessons and the Moving with Math Learning System click here to receive our catalog.

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