Productive Talk Moves

For Supporting Classroom Discussions in Mathematics

5 Talk Moves That Every Teacher Should Know and Use in the Classroom

  1. Revoicing: Restate student questions to engage students and reinforce appropriate language.
  2. Rephrasing: Have students restate their peers ideas in their own words to increase student involvement and encourage student interaction, thereby, enhancing the classroom discussion.
  3. Reasoning: Get other students' perspective on their peers' ideas or questions.
  4. Elaborating: Challenge students to expand upon their classmates ideas.
  5. Waiting: Give students time to ponder or think about their ideas or answers before providing solutions (Van DeWalle, Karp, & Bay-Williams, 2016).

Example of a 7th Grade Math Problem

Problem: In a bag of small balls 1/4 are green, 1/8 are blue, 1/12 are yellow and the remaining 26 white. How many balls are blue?


First, find the fraction of the green, blue and yellow balls by finding a common denominator and adding them together.

1/4 + 1/8 + 1/12 = 6 / 24 + 3 / 24 + 2 / 24 = 11 / 24

Next subtract the 11 / 24 balls from the total number of balls

24 / 24 - 11 / 24 = 13 / 24

Thus, the fraction 13 / 24 corresponds to the remaining 26 balls. Using x as the total number of balls then

(13 / 24) of x = 26 balls or (13 / 24) × x = 26

x = 26 × (24 / 13) = 48 , total number of balls

The fraction of blue balls is 1 / 8 of x, so that corresponds to 1/ 8 of 48 =6

Answer: 6 balls are blue

(, n.d.)

Using the 5 Talk Moves to Solve the Problem

  • Talk Move 1: A common error that students make when solving a problem like this is finding a common denominator, so using Revoicing teachers can clarify students questions while reinforcing appropriate mathematical language. An example of a teacher prompt using revoicing to solve the above problem could be asking a student "How did he/she decide to use 24 as a common denominator?"

  • Talk Move 2: When using Rephrasing a teacher may want to ask another student to restate their classmate's reasoning for the use of 24 as a common denominator in their own words to enhance the classroom discussion.

  • Talk Move 3: An example of a teacher prompt using Reasoning to engage students could be to ask the class "If anyone else used a different common denominator to solve this problem or if the rest of the of the class agreed with the learner's reasoning to use 24 as the common denominator?" This allows the teacher to get other students' thoughts on using this technique to solve the problem.

  • Talk Move 4: A teacher prompt using Elaborating to solve the problem may include asking students "If they have another example of how the problem can be solved?" This can encourage student participation, and challenge learners to think of other ways that the problem can be solved while making connections to the similarity and differences between the two approaches.

  • Talk Move 5: The process of Waiting is an essential element in letting students think things through on their on, so a teacher prompt using this technique may include telling students "To take time and really think about another way that this problem can be approached, or asking students to work together to come up with another strategy to solve this problem." This helps students understand that there can be more than one way to solve a math question, while also engaging students in higher order thinking about the problem solving process.

References (n.d). 7th Grade math words problems. Retrieved from

Van De Walle, J. A., Karp, K. S., & Bay-Williams, J. M. (2016). Elementary and middle school mathematics teaching developmentally. Boston, MA: Pearson.