Guiding Students to Become Problem-Solvers through Math Talk: What is Math Discourse and Why it Matters
During math time, students should be doing more than just quietly pondering with a paper and pencil or flipping through math fact flashcards. They need to talk about math!
When students put their problem-solving process into words, they’re able to reflect on their understanding and develop higher-order thinking skills.
So, how can you get your students to think and talk about math? Read on to learn about math discourse, why it matters, and how it can look in your classroom.
What is Math Discourse?
Math discourse, also known as mathematical discourse or math talk, is the way we think, discuss, question, and represent our ideas to reveal our level of understanding of math concepts.
Why is Math Discourse Important?
Engaging in math discourse is both helpful for students and teachers.
Through meaningful discussions about math, students are able to deepen conceptual knowledge, make connections of prior knowledge to current concepts, and reflect on their understanding as well as other students’ understanding.
As for teachers, math discourse helps them evaluate any misconceptions students may have and pinpoint any gaps in learning.
What Does Math Discourse Look Like?
When putting math discourse into practice, there are different expectations for teachers and students.
Learners lead conversations and pose questions using academic vocabulary. So, when students are engaging in math discourse, they are:
- Sharing ideas, solutions, and strategies either with the whole class, in small groups, or in pairs.
- Listening to and critiquing the work and reasoning of others, using examples to support or refute an argument.
- Comparing, contrasting, and connecting their ideas with other students’ ideas.
- Working collaboratively to support each other.
Meanwhile, teachers are facilitating mathematical discourse by:
- Encouraging students to share their mathematical reasoning, ideas, and approaches.
- Having students explain and defend their reasoning.
- Guiding student responses to stay focused on the topic.
- Using mistakes as springboards for discussion.
Resources to Facilitate Math Discourse
Get to talking about math with teaching resources from ExploreLearning Gizmos. Sign up for a Gizmos trial for 30-day access to a library of math simulations and accompanying lesson materials, like teacher guides and student exploration sheets, that will help you lead conversations about math.
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