Supporting Mathematical Discourse

The Research + Practice Brief Supporting Mathematical Discourse in the Early Grades provides definitions, supporting research, perspectives, and strategies for promoting math talk in elementary classrooms. Meaningful mathematical discourse allows students to share their thinking, learn from one another, and promote high levels of engagement and understanding. However, it is often difficult for educators to support and nurture meaningful discourse in mathematics lessons. Understanding how student-driven conversations can support higher-level mathematical thinking processes helps educators create and sustain classroom environments that support increased student voice and ownership in the learning process.

It can be difficult to know where to begin as you work to increase meaningful student mathematical conversations in the elementary classroom. In addition to the strategies and tools described in this brief, the following ideas are possible starting points to engage students in communicating their ideas supported by technology tools:

  • Digital portfolios
    Consider using Seesaw as a portfolio platform to document student learning through photos, videos, drawings, text, PDFs, and links. Students can share with each other, teachers, families, and the global community.
  • Reflection
    Encourage students to reflect on their problem solving processes using digital recording tools to listen to their own or peers’ thinking. Use collaborative and interactive digital whiteboards, such as Explain Everything, and invite students to upload or record their work, annotate their problem solving strategies, and collaborate on techniques. Share their videos to a private channel, classroom learning management system, shared online folder, or online digital portfolio system such as Seesaw.
  • Storytelling
    Engage students in purposeful thinking by having them talk through their work, posing questions, or collaborating on mathematical narratives. Use Book Creator to scan student work and create problem solving stories, riddles, or question-based adventures.
  • Social media
    Create a class Twitter account to allow young learners to safely share their learning, ideas, and pose questions to the global community. Consider the process described by Alice Keeler in her post Class Twitter Account: How Your Students Can Tweet.
  • Video chatting
    Use Google Hangouts, Zoom, or Skype to connect with other students and classrooms. Talk with students that represent other backgrounds, ages, and cultures to expand mathematical exposure, ideas, and reasoning. Consider virtually inviting professionals, mathematical experts, or thought leaders into the classroom to encourage conversation and questions.
  • Blogging
    Consider using Kidblog for young learners to demonstrate and share their learning with an authentic audience. Invite students to write about their mathematical investigations and problem solving strategies. Encourage them to pose questions to increase communication with a broader population.
  • Flexible discussion
    Post a question or discussion prompt on a classroom blog, wiki, or learning management system. Encourage students to talk to family members about the question or prompt, and invite students to respond digitally using their choice of communication tool. Some examples include:

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