Mathematical Discourse is the way students represent, think, talk, question, agree and disagree in the classroom. It helps students reflect on and make sense of their understanding of math concepts. Perhaps most importantly it builds confidence for learners.

The math classroom is often a challenging space for learners. Students can be very sensitive to (or fearful of) getting wrong answers. There is also the uncertainty that comes from not knowing how to explain something or communicate their misunderstanding.

If we don’t foster a culture of productive failure in which all attempts are a valuable part of the process, the learning of new concepts in math can feel uncomfortable–-especially when peers are grasping the concepts at various levels of understanding. But the math classroom can also be a great space to refine 21st Century skills of critical thinking, problem-solving, persistence and collaboration.

In an effort to provide teacher and student support in this area, Curriculum Associates has published two new resources highlighting best practices for mathematical discourse in the classroom:

useful questions for mathematical discourse, such as "what I heard you way was," what strategy do you use?", and "How would you draw a picture to explain yourself?"

1. Let’s Talk Math: 20 Power Sentence Starters & Questions

This resource provides 20 sentence starters for teachers and students to use with each other (also check out 100 questions that promote discourse). Encouraging students to use effective language in articulating mathematical observations will support agreements/disagreements, questions and explanations. You’ll notice the questions are open-ended prompts a teacher can use to encourage students to think critically and communicate purposefully.

why mathematical discourse matters infographic—reasons such as "it helps students reflect on their own understanding, make sense of and critique others' ideas", and it helps teachers evaluate what students understand and their misconceptions

2. Why Mathematical Discourse Matters and How it Can Help Your Students

This rich resource covers why mathematical discourse is important, how you nurture a discourse-rich classroom, what mathematical discourse actually looks like in action and what teachers and students do during math discourse. Finally, it ends with six strategies you can try in your classroom today to encourage discourse. A definite must-have resource for any math teacher or coach.

Technology has allowed us to deeply personalize the math experience for students, but just as important as being able to progress at your own pace is having the opportunity to learn with and from peers. Community conversations are a great way to build collaboration skills, to open the door for productive failure and to highlight the beauty of problem-solving from a variety of perspectives. Far too often, people think that there is only one way to arrive at the correct answer, but as we prepare kids for the future, we have to move beyond a model that constricts creativity. Seeing your classmates do something differently and being able to discuss what and why they have done it is powerful.

While both of these resources were created with teachers in mind, they could also be great to share with parents or use to inform math nights at your school. Imagine the rich learning that could be created at home if parents had more ideas and tips so they’re asking the right questions during homework time.

For more, see:


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