Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn, Grades 1-6

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9780941355537: Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn, Grades 1-6

This exciting resource provides a unique look into the significant role of classroom discussions in mathematics teaching in grades 1 through 6. Five discussion strategies are introduced to help teachers strengthen students' thinking and learning and help them build connections among mathematical ideas. A valuable outline is provided to help teachers get started using talk in the classroom, plan lessons, and deal with challenges. Two case studies are also included for further insight into how teachers can use talk effectively.

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About the Author:

Suzanne H. Chapin is an associate professor of mathematics education at Boston University. She is interested in mathematics curricula, the education of the gifted, and how to further the mathematics achievement of economically disadvantaged students. Over the past twenty-five years, she has directed many projects and written many books in these areas. Suzanne is the coauthor of Math Matters: Understanding the Math You Teach, Grades 1-6.

Catherine O Connor is a professor in language and literacy, and in linguistics, at Boston University. She teaches and conducts research in linguistics and in education, the latter with a focus on language use in classrooms. For the past ten years, she has been director of the Program in Applied Linguistics in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Boston University.

Nancy Canavan Anderson is an elementary and middle school mathematics educator in the Boston area. The coauthor of Good Questions for Math Teaching, Grades 5-8, Nancy is also a Math Solutions consultant. Currently, Nancy is a doctoral candidate in mathematics education at Boston University.

Review:

Classroom Discussions, Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn by Suzanne H. Chapin, Catherine O Connor, and Nancy Canavan Anderson makes classroom discussion come to life by giving clear examples to use and actual classroom dialogue that has been tested. It begins by stating results from Project Challenge, a research project funded by the US Department of Education. This project showed that students were able to think deeply and with more insight in mathematics when they were able to discuss their mathematical ideas, and test results from Project Challenge support this.

The authors quote teachers and students in real classroom situations. For example: Mrs. H: So let's hear what you have decided about the pattern in the chart. Student: Me and my partner think the pattern is that the answer is twice as much as the bottom number. Mrs. H: Let's hear from another team. This small piece of dialogue shows how the teacher becomes a facilitator and the students can become mathematical thinkers.

The writing of the book is clear and easy to follow. The authors begin by discussing The Tools of Classroom Talk, general moves that lead to productive dialogue. One is revoicing, e.g., Can you repeat what he just said in your own words? or What other ideas would someone else like to add on? These are just a few examples of some tools to increase classroom talk. The book flows smoothly with topics on mathematical concepts, computational procedures, solutions and methods for problem solving strategies, and reasoning. It is written as if the authors are speaking directly to the reader. The chapters Planning Lessons and Troubleshooting answer many questions such as what to do if students won't talk or if their answers are superficial. I felt like I was observing the classrooms throughout the book. Each example of talk in action included strategies or talk moves" that are tools for teachers to try as they implement classroom discourse in their mathematics teaching.

As I read the book I kept nodding my head in agreement. I have observed and used some of the techniques suggested, such as Can you repeat what he just said in your own words? and asking students to apply their own reasoning. One of the best examples of students sharing their solution methods and strategies is through problem solving when other students say, Oh, I get it now! once they have observed another student's example. This shows me their depth of understanding and allows students to consider another solution strategy they may not have considered. I highly recommend reading this book and trying the techniques offered. I believe you will see a difference in your classroom.

Reprinted with permission from Intersection, 2004, by ExxonMobil Corporation. --Tod Frank, Math Specialist at John Adams Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia. From the Winter 2004 2005 issue of Intersection, a newsletter of the ExxonMobil Corporation and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).

In this book, the authors explain how conversations among students enhance the understanding of mathematical concepts. Throughout the text, the authors show how to integrate the following practices into mathematical instruction to promote classroom discourse: revoicing, restating, applying reasoning, using wait time, prompting students, and using whole-classroom discussion, small-group discussion, and partner talk. The book includes annotated examples of how to apply these strategies in elementary school classrooms. The use of discussion is supported by background information. The authors provide step-by-step instructions for the implementation of discussion strategies. They also stress the importance of planning for instruction and offer a lesson-plan format that includes problem-solving strategies. Preservice and newly appointed teachers will find this book to be a useful resource for promoting discussion in the classroom. Although the authors do not address in-depth evaluation of pupil performance, the presented strategies are valuable as instructional tools for all curriculum areas.

Reprinted with permission from NCTM, © 2005 --Review by Mark Levy, elementary school supervisor in Bayside, New York. From the February 2005 issue of Teaching Children Mathematics, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM).

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