Talk Moves in Math Class: Great for Guided Math Groups

Posted on December 27, 2011. Filed under: Classroom environment, Common Core, Elementary math, Math is a Language | Tags: , , , , , |

Accountable talk is one of the linchpins of student achievement.  We move learning forward by having students engage in meaningful conversations.  Accountable talk is more than just having students answer questions or talk with each other randomly.  It means that students are accountable to each other’s thinking and reasoning.  It means that students are accountable to whether the conversation makes sense and when it doesn’t it means that students actively participate in clarifying the conversation.

Teachers facilitate this talk through a series of moves that can be categorized.  “Seemingly straightforward conversations can be leveraged to become authentic checks for intelligibility, coherence, engagement, and participation” (O’Conner & Ford O’Conner). Talk moves keep the conversation going smoothly and in a way that maximizes the learning. When children are working in small guided math groups, they have a greater opportunity to talk and learn.

Here is a great website that has videos and commentary about Accountable Talk.

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Math Talk: Getting Started in Whole Class and Small Groups

Posted on October 14, 2011. Filed under: Assessment, Math is a Language | Tags: , , , , , , |

What is math talk? Math talk involves rigorous, engaging, accountable discussions about math.  Math talk is a structure that is integrated throughout the math workshop.  It happens in whole class settings as well as small group settings.  You want your students to be engaging in it in math centers with partners and groups.  Math is a language. We learn a language by speaking it.  So, let’s get to talking. Here is some springboards about it to get you thinking and  talking about how to do it in your class.

Math Talk in Action:

Action Planning Templates:

Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Math Proficiency and Writing in Math Class: Scaffolding Whole Class and Guided Math Groups Activities Part II

Posted on January 25, 2011. Filed under: Assessment, During the Guided Math Lesson, Elementary math, Math is a Language, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , , , , , , |

There are a few key articles floating around the web about math journal writing.  They give lots of great prompts.  But, I have been thinking lately about how much more helpful they would be if the prompts were categorized in terms of the mathematical proficiency.  In this way, teachers can focus on what they are aiming for when they have students to write in math class.

I am starting with Conceptual Understanding and in the next few posts I will discuss the other areas.  Below I have listed some key articles.  I suggest when you look at prompts that you think about which element of mathematical proficiency you are working on and try to work on different ones throughout the year.

Conceptual Understanding:

In these types of prompts students are trying to explain their understanding of concepts.  These types of prompts want students to explain big ideas and the concepts.  In doing these types of prompts, students should  also use graphic organizers like the Frayer Model sometimes.

  • _______ is like…
  • We use ________for
  • If we didn’t have _______then we would not be able to ____
  • Write everything you know about ____________
  • Write some examples of ______________
  • Make up a 5 question test about ___________( make 3 easy problems and 2 hard problems)
  • Write a story/word problem whose answer is _________
  • Why???
  • The most important thing about _______ is _____
  • What does _______ mean?
  • Explain _______…
  • What does ________mean in your own words? (use the current vocabulary)

Great Resources:

59 Math Writing Prompts:

101 Math Writing Prompts:

Writing from literature and math activities:

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions About Word Walls

Posted on January 15, 2011. Filed under: Classroom environment, Elementary math, Math is a Language, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , , |

1. Where do the words come from?

A variety of places.  Check your state and district’s math word list.  Check the current unit of study. Check old state tests.  Also think about the high frequency math words that keep coming back!  Often students fail math tests because of these culprits…words we assume they know.

2. Do I put all the words from forever up?

Absolutely not!  Only use the words from the current unit of study.  But, be sure to keep those other words alive and well through a variety of games like charades, concentration and bingo.

3.  Do I put all the words up at once or as I introduce them?

As you introduce them!  They should all make sense and be put up within a specific context.

4. ABC-123 Should I put them in ABC order?

Absolutely not! *Dr. Wahlstrom suggests clustering them by topic.

5.    Are they really that important?

Absolutely!  The immediate words of the unit serve as visual resource in the classroom. The pictures should reinforce the words. Remember to speak a language you need to know the vocabulary!

***Be sure to search and see the other vocabulary and word wall posts in this blog!


Happy Mathing,

Dr. Nicki

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

Teaching staying power, sticktoitness and the right attitude: Mathematical Disposition and Guided Math Lessons (Part 5)

Posted on October 20, 2010. Filed under: Assessment, Classroom environment, Guided math, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Polya (1969) [the grandfather of problem solving] states: This is the general aim of mathematics teaching – to develop in each student as much as possible the good mental habits of tackling any kind of problem. You should develop the whole personality of the student and mathematics teaching should especially develop thinking. Mathematics teaching could also develop clarity and staying power. It could also develop character to some extent but most important is the development of thinking. My point of view is that the most important part of thinking that is developed in mathematics is the right attitude in tackling problems, in treating problems. (Part II, pp. 5-7) (cited in Merz, 2009).

Polya provokes us to think about what we do everyday.  He says that we are charged with developing in students ” the good mental habits of tackling any kind of problem.”  We have to come up with rich math tasks so students can engage in this type of thinking.  And, dare I say most of those types of problems are not on page 47 in problems 3-10:)  Real problems, with real contexts helps students to see that math is a real subject.

What do you think of his statement that we should “develop the whole personality of the child and math should develop thinking?”  This idea makes math class look very different from many teach, test and move on scenarios.  If we are teaching to develop personality and thinking, then what on earth does that look like?

Polya goes on to state that teaching math is about teaching character, staying power and the right attitude.

Let’s all think about how we write that into our lesson plans!


Merz, A. (2009). Teaching for Mathematical Dispositions
as Well as for Understanding: The Difference Between Reacting to and
Advocating for Dispositional Learning. Journal of Educational Thought
Vol. 43, No. 1, 65-78.

Polya, G. (1969). The goals of mathematics education. Retrieved March 3, 2005, from
Unpublished videotaped lecture presented to T.C. O’Brien’s
mathematics education students

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Mathematical Disposition: More than an attitude (using guided math groups to foster the many aspects) Part 4

Posted on October 19, 2010. Filed under: Assessment, Classroom environment, Guided Math Introduction, Mathematical Proficiency | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Much has been written about mathematical dispositions or ways of thinking and being NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 1989, 2000) and others (e.g., Maher, 2005; De Corte, Verschaffel, & Op’T Eynde, 2000: Polya, 1969).  The research tells us that mathematical disposition is much more than an attitude.  It is about ways of thinking, doing, being and seeing math.  It includes confidence, flexibility, perseverance, interest, inventiveness, appreciation, reflection and monitoring (Merz, 2009).

Given that, how do you cultivate each one of these in your class?

  1. What do you do to boost students’ confidence?  Name 2 things.  What could you do? Name 1 more.  How might you do this in a guided math group?  Since you only have a few students in a group, you can attend more individually to each one.  One way to do this is to give problems that they can do.  Success breeds success and confidence.

2. What do you do to help foster flexibility? This idea of thinking in many different ways?  Do you engage in ongoing strategy talk?  Do you have a culture of sharing in your class that goes beyond the answer but talks about how people got the answer or didn’t get it?

3. What do you do to build perseverance?  How do you teach that?  How do you do that?  So that students’ perseverance levels increase over time?

4. What do you do to spark interest?  How do you connect math to their lives? Where is the math in Pokeman or Dragonball Z?

5. What do you do to encourage inventiveness?  Do we publicly celebrate inventive thinking?  How do we get our students to think hard about the math their doing and take risks?

6. What do you do to cultivate appreciation of math?  Do you make connections to real life situations that are important to them so students see that math really does matter?

7. How often do we get them to reflect about the math they are learning?  Do we consistently use entrance and/or exit slips so they can think about their learning? Do we use individual pupil responses like thumbs up, thumbs down or sideways to check in with them?  Do we use red, green, and yellow slips so they can give us immediate feedback about speeding up the lesson, slowing down the lesson or stopping to explain further?  Do we ask them to do oral and or written reflections on their quizzes and tests and make plans to learn what they are still struggling with?  You can do this in small guided math groups! This is an excellent space for these types of discussions.

8. How do we get student’s to monitor their learning?  Do they have action plans that they reflect on?  Who is responsible for knowing where they are?  Just us?  Think about how powerful it would be if they knew too! And if their parents knew, more than just a few times a year.  The more people who know, the more likely the student is to get there!  Think of the power of everybody being on board.  What does a consistent inclusive monitoring system look like?


Alice Merz

Journal of Educational Thought
Vol. 43, No. 1, 2009, 65-78.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )

5 important “talk moves” in a guided math discussion

Posted on January 18, 2010. Filed under: During the Guided Math Lesson | Tags: , |

Teacher engages in focused talk, utilizing various “talk moves” throughout the guided math discussion.  Chapin, O’connor and Anderson (2003) propose 5 talk moves.  The first talk move involves “revoicing” repeating what the student has said.  The second talk move involves asking students to “restate” what one of the peers has said.  The third talk move requires that students consider each others’ reasoning by “agreeing or disagreeing” with a bodily gesture- such as thumbs up or down.  The fourth talk move asks students to “add on” or contribute, extend or expand upon what has already been said.  The fifth talk move requires teachers to use wait time so that students have time to process their own thinking and prepare to talk.  Throughout the Guided Math lesson, teachers should employ these talk moves in order to better facilitate the discussion and hold the children accountable to the ongoing conversation.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...