# Our teachers need support in engaging students in mathematical discussions

#### Summary

Learning to communicate mathematically is at the heart of deepening understanding in mathematics for teachers and students, but teachers find it difficult to engage students in meaningful mathematical discussions. It requires specific teaching strategies to:

Posing “good” questions, probing reasoning, and listening carefully to other’s thinking, are new challenges for many teachers and their students. To achieve this, teachers must create an environment where students learn to respectfully agree or disagree and challenge ideas that are presented by others in their learning community.

- select and use substantial problems worthy of discussion,
- facilitate rather than dominate discussions,
- orchestrate discussions where students actively pose questions to clarify their own thinking or that of their peers
- address misconceptions
- make decisions on what ideas to pursue orally or in writing.

Posing “good” questions, probing reasoning, and listening carefully to other’s thinking, are new challenges for many teachers and their students. To achieve this, teachers must create an environment where students learn to respectfully agree or disagree and challenge ideas that are presented by others in their learning community.

#### Strategies

The following strategies have been found effective, separately or in combination. They offer leaders a set of tools, including videotape, that features classrooms where mathematical discourse is an integral part of teaching and learning.

*Use professional literature to learn to facilitate mathematical discussions*This strategy identifies key tools that teachers can use to reflect on their own practice and learn ways to support productive mathematical discussions.

*Redefine the roles and expectations of teacher and students*Every classroom relies on an implicit 'contract' between the teacher and the students, defining what each expects of others. Non-routine problem solving depends on students taking more responsibility for their own understanding, being willing and able to articulate their own thinking and to discuss their ideas with peers. The teacher is a facilitator of this process. This strategy involves making a shift away from the dominance of teacher-directed instruction.

*Use professional development to target students' understanding through mathematical discourse*This strategy aims to help leaders organize and facilitate professional development experiences to support teachers’ development of practices which focus on understanding students’ thinking and broaden the mathematical discussions and questions asked in the classroom. This strategy, through the tools it suggests, will help leaders guide teachers towards making effective mathematical discourse a reality in their classroom. These tools include:

*Talking Mathematics: Resources for Developing Professionals, Developing Mathematical Ideas Seminars, Cognitively Guided Instruction*, and Kathy Richardson’s

*Professional Development Videos series.*