Math Talks Supports and Resources

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    Welcome to Math Talks!

    “Something wonderful happens when students learn they can make sense of mathematics in their own ways, make mathematically convincing arguments, and critique and build on the ideas of their peers.”   

    Making Number Talks Matter by Cathy Humphreys & Ruth Parker

    What are math talks?

    Math Talks are short (typically 10-15 minutes) mental math routines designed to elicit multiple ways of seeing and doing mathematics. Student-centered discourse is a key feature of math talks, focusing on students’ reasoning and solution paths, rather than the answers themselves. Students’ mathematical understanding deepens as they learn to both articulate their own thinking and understand the thinking of others.

    Math Talks can be centered on conceptual understanding in any math topic, extending beyond whole numbers and computation to include concepts involving fractions, geometry, measurement and data, and many more.

    Although short, Math Talks provide a powerful structure that can easily be infused into the daily work of any mathematics classroom. They can be used to provide additional experience with prior content, for informal assessment of students’ understanding of a concept, or to preview upcoming content, as well as to provide opportunities for students to experience the joy and beauty of mathematics.


    Why use math talks?

    According to B. Michelle Rinehart on How We Teach (Links to an external site.):

    • [During Math Talks] students practice making their thinking visible, constructing viable arguments, and making sense of the collective mathematical thinking of the class. 
    • Math Talks help to develop a culture of classroom discourse by valuing students’ mathematical thinking, fostering meaningful mathematical discussions, and developing students’ mathematical flexibility. 
    • Math Talks help us see our students as mathematical thinkers and reasoners by eliciting and then building on the mathematical thinking (however informal the language may be) that our students bring to our classrooms.
    • The Math Talks structure provides an accessible format for critical elements of a learner-centered classroom, including an explicit focus on building procedural knowledge from conceptual understanding and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse.

    When beginning math talks:

    • Create a safe environment.
    • Start with a routine such as Dot Talks that is readily accessible to all students.
    • Establish agreements with your students to ensure that
      • multiple perspectives and voices are heard,
      • all ideas are honored and
      • mistakes are valued.
    • Accept, respect, and consider all answers, without judgment.
    • Record students’ thinking as accurately as you can.
    • Use color to delineate different solutions paths.
    • Provide ample think time.
    • Allow for and expect wait time.
    • Take the time to plan.
      • What problem, task, or situation will you present?
      • What are possible answers students might come up with?
      • How might students approach the problem?
      • What possible misconceptions might they have?
      • What questions might you ask?
      • How will you record students’ thinking?

    Additional resources you might find helpful: