Coach's Top 10: Discourse of Course

Making Math Count in WHPS

Math practice standard #3 is construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.

So, how do we get students to participate in productive discourse? First, we must create conditions in our classes for communication, speaking, listening, and writing. Then, we include learning activities that promote communication about the math.

Creating Conditions for Discourse

  1. Explicitly teach students how to have collaborative conversations. Create norms and routines with students for talking and listening and give students opportunities to practice. Frequently review the norms prior to academic discourse. After students engage in discourse, have them reflect on the process and identify what went well and what can be done to improve the discourse.
  2. Post sentence starters to promote respectful discourse. With students develop a list of sentence starters that will help students give feedback and encourage participation from everyone. See the example below.
  3. Use Talking Chips to promote participation from all students. Students take 1-3 talking chips, depending on your purpose for using talking chips. If you want everyone to share one idea, students take 1 chip. If you want a discussion where all voices are heard, students take 2-3 talking chips. As students speak, they throw in a chip. Once they are out of chips, they continue to listen to other members of the group. This provides you with a visible way to see who is participating in group discussions. Chips can be counters, checkers, or poker chips.
  4. Conversation cards can change the conversations. Use the cards for partner conversations beyond, "My answer is... because..." These cards will challenge students to think beyond the answer and make connections to the mathematics in different ways. Click below for a pdf of conversation cards.
  5. Turn and Talk gets everyone talking. This is a tried and true strategy that gives everyone an opportunity to share their thinking and listen to a partner. Turn and talk can also give a voice to students that may be afraid to speak up to the class and give a strategy. After a turn and talk invite students to share their own thinking or the the thinking of a partner. This may encourage even your most reluctant sharers to speak out with confidence. Want to make Turn and Talk more active. Have students stand and Partner Point. Students make eye contact and point to one another to find a partner. Students that haven't found a partner, make their way to the front of the room to find one another. After sharing with this partner, have students find another point partner for the next discussion or problem. Students get to talk to a variety of students, move around, and engage in meaningful discourse.

See the link below for 100 questions you can use in

teaching to promote mathematical discourse.

Activities to Promote Discourse:

6. Eliminate It Give students a set of four items. It can be numbers, shape words, equations, or vocabulary words. Students choose one to eliminate based on a mathematical fact or notion. Try to give sets that promote more than one possible way of thinking. Then students discuss with a partner or in a small group why they would eliminate it. Group members critique the reasoning of the mathematics.
7. Agree or Disagree You pose a math statement. Students have to agree or disagree and explain thinking using mathematical reasoning.
8. Showdown This is a small group protocol that takes agree/disagree to a new level.
  • -Provide students with cards with one problem on each card.
  • -The captain reads the problem to the group.
  • -Everyone solves the problem on a small whiteboard or paper.
  • -Once everyone has a chance the solve, the captain calls, "Showdown!"
  • -The captain gives and explains his or her answer.
  • -The next member of the group agrees or disagrees and explains his or her thinking.
  • -The members of the group continue agreeing or disagreeing and telling why.
  • After all members respond. The group discusses and comes to a consensus on the correct answer.
  • -Do it again with a new captain and new problem
9. My 2 Cents Provide students with a written math explanation that is flawed or incomplete. With partners have students explain the misconceptions or missing explanation.

10. Fishbowl Divide students into two equal groups. One group makes a circle facing and in the second group makes an inner circle facing outward toward a partner. The teacher poses a question or problem for students to discuss. Then the outer circle or inner circle moves one or two spaces to the right to find a new partner. This creates opportunities for students to talk with many different partners.