Reading in Mathematics
The Importance of Small-Group and Whole-Class Discussions
In Classroom Discussions in Math: A Teacher’s Guide for Using Talk Moves to Support the Common Core and More, Chapin, O’Connor, and Anderson (2013) describe a set of “talk moves” that teachers can use to (1) help individual students clarify and share their own thoughts; (2) help students orient themselves to the thinking of others; (3) help students deepen their own reasoning; and (4) help students engage in the reasoning of others. These kinds of talk moves provide useful tools for supporting student reading and sense making in mathematics, including when students are called upon to read and make sense of the mathematical work of their classmates.
Talk moves that help students clarify and share their own thinking include using wait time, turn and talk, “So, are you saying. . .?” (revoicing), and “Say more.” A talk move that helps orient students to the thinking of others includes “Who can repeat?” A talk move that helps students deepen their own reasoning is pressing for reasoning (“Why do you think that?”). Finally, talk moves that help students engage in the reasoning of others include “What do you think about that?” or “Do you agree or disagree . . . and why?,” and “Who can add on?” All of these contribute to rich small-group and whole-class discussions that support student sense making of mathematics texts.
Together, sense-making protocols, student collaboration in small groups as they use these sense-making protocols, and classroom discussions that are supported by these kinds of “talk moves” can help students successfully read and make sense of a wide range of mathematics texts. Importantly, small-group and whole-class discussions also provide teachers with opportunities to hear and think about how their students are making sense of these materials, thus providing important information that can then be used to shape instruction.
Apply: Think back to the videos that show students reading and making sense of mathematics materials. How did the teachers in these videos support small-group and whole-class discussions that helped students make sense of mathematics materials? How did these small-group and whole-class discussions provide teachers with information that could be used to shape their instruction? What teaching practices did you see in these videos that you would like to try in your own classroom?