Talking about mathematics is one of my favourite things to do with my class. I think it’s such an important way to build community amongst students and it gives them an opportunity to articulate their thinking and to engage in wondering together. When the class engages in discussion with one another it also means that the space is theirs. I’m not the sole knowledge holder; the students have the space as mathematicians.

I tend to think intentionally about the space when we engage in math talks. Sometimes I’m recording their ideas and standing at the easel with chart paper and markers. Other times we are walking around the room and looking at different representations of math. My preferred way to engage in math talk, though, is by sitting together in a circle. I find this way, the space is changed and we’re all positioned as learners in conversation with each other.

There’s a few different resources to use for math talks and they build different skills, however, the essence is the same: I want to get the children to talk about math! It’s important that I don’t always give them the ‘right answer’ and it’s important for them to hear ideas from their peers. The children might be building connections and strategies during discussion. They might be predicting and anticipating or they might simply be wondering about a problem.

I would often pose a question featuring my colleague, ‘Mr B’ and it would look something like: Mr B thought the following equation was true: 4 x 5 = 25. Do you think he is correct? How can you prove your thinking?

I intentionally gave an incorrect equation here and I’m hoping that the students, through thinking and learning together, will discover that the equation is incorrect. However, what I’m most interested in is how they can prove their thinking. I want them to speak about and explain their ideas, I listen to learn more about them as learners and mathematicians:

What do they see in their minds?
What are the strategies they can use to check and double check what they think might be true or mathematically possible?
Can they apply what they understand to different situations?
Can they use what they know to understand errors?

So much information can come from talking about math. What I love about these kinds of questions is that it doesn’t just ask students to give an answer, it allows the opportunity to wonder and engage in the thinking over the product. Listening to student thinking and conversations also gives space for me to intentionally assess while we’re learning. I can think about who is speaking and who isn’t sharing at all. I can scaffold some of those connections and processes to build student confidence with mathematics. .

If you’re looking for some online resources to support math talk, check out some of these cool sites:

Stevewy Borney: https://stevewyborney.com/

Math for Love: https://mathforlove.com/lessons/openers/

Estimation 180: https://estimation180.com/

Number Talk Images: https://ntimages.weebly.com/photos.html

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