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Activating Math Talk

Activating Math Talk
11 Purposeful Techniques for Your Elementary Students

First Edition

October 2020 | 240 pages | Corwin

Check out these podcasts: 

Teaching Math Teaching Podcast Episode 48: Paola Sztajn and Dan Heck: Activating Math Talk

Achieve High-Quality Mathematics Discourse With Purposeful Talk Techniques

Many mathematics teachers agree that engaging students in high quality discourse is important for their conceptual learning, but successfully promoting such discourse in elementary classrooms—with attention to the needs of every learner—can be a challenge. Activating Math Talk tackles this challenge by bringing practical, math-specific, productive discourse techniques that are applicable to any lesson or curriculum.

Framed around 11 student-centered discourse techniques, this research-based book connects purposeful instructional techniques to specific lesson goals and includes a focus on supporting emergent multilingual learners. You will be guided through each technique with

  • Classroom examples of tasks and techniques spanning grades K–5
  • Reflection moments to help you consider how key ideas relate to your own instruction
  • Classroom vignettes that illustrate the techniques in action and provide opportunities to analyze and prepare for your own implementation
  • Group discussion questions for engaging with colleagues in your professional community

Achieving high-quality mathematics discourse is within your reach using the clear-cut techniques that activates your math talk efforts to promote every student’s conceptual learning.

About the Authors
Preface: Setting the Stage
Part I: Understanding High Quality Math Discourse for All Students
Chapter 1: High Quality Discourse in Math Classrooms
Chapter 2: Engaging Emergent Multilingual Learners in Discourse
Chapter 3: Mathematics Knowledge for Facilitating Discourse
Key Takeaways about High Quality Math Discourse
Part II: Activating Math Discourse in the Classroom
Chapter 4: Teaching Students to Talk About Math
Chapter 5: Structuring Math Lessons for High Quality Discourse
Key Takeaways about Facilitating Math Discourse in the Classroom
Part III: Talk Techniques for the Launch Phase
Chapter 6: Story Problem Retelling
Chapter 7: Task Think Aloud
Chapter 8: Math Bet Lines
Key Takeaways about the Launch Phase
Part IV: Talk Techniques for the Explore Phase
Chapter 9: Think-Pair-Rehearse-Share
Chapter 10: Math Four Square
Chapter 11: Talk Triangle
Chapter 12: Solution Draft & Final Copy
Key Takeaways about the Explore Phase
Part V: Talk Techniques for the Discuss Phase
Chapter 13: Math Talk Chain
Chapter 14: All Talk Math
Chapter 15: Probing and Pressing Math Questions
Chapter 16: Math Learning Summary
Key Takeaways about the Discuss Phase
Part VI: Putting It All Together
Chapter 17: Planning and Reflecting to Promote High Quality Discourse
Key Takeaways about Putting It All Together
Continuing the Journey Toward High Quality Discourse

This book provides the perfect answer to the question, ‘How can I help students engage in high-quality math discourse in my classroom?’ The experiences of real teachers in real classrooms, brought to life through a series of vignettes, provide vivid illustrations of how the 11 techniques described can get students thinking and talking about mathematics. The book is a game changer for elementary teachers!

Margaret (Peg) Smith
Emeritus Faculty, University of Pittsburgh

We’ve come a long way since discussion in math class meant that individual students shared their strategies one after the other with little interaction or reflection. This book is based on the premise that discourse skills can and must be learned and practiced if all students are to have access to participation in high-quality talk about significant mathematical ideas. Based on a decade of work with teachers and coaches, it provides clear, specific strategies illustrate d with classroom examples for supporting students as they learn how to talk, listen, and question during all phases of the math lesson.

Susan Jo Russell
Senior Researcher, TERC

Packed with powerful teaching ideas—there are so many excellent teaching strategies in this single book! A teacher could learn to implement one or two of these techniques and the book will have been worth its cost. It provided ideas that I wanted to try to implement RIGHT AWAY!”

Amanda Jansen
Professor of Mathematics Education, University of Delaware

This book does a great job of providing how-to steps that I was able to incorporate into my own practice. These techniques for discourse are appropriate for a wide variety of grade and skill levels. I especially appreciated the strategies for differentiation and for meeting the needs of emergent multilinguals.

Tyler Erickson
Fifth-Grade Teacher

We teachers know students can talk. But teaching how to talk to further mathematical understanding is challenging. Activating Math Talk gave me strategies to guide students, even reticent ones, into meaningful mathematical discourse. It challenged me to be more purposeful in ‘opening spaces for students to surprise you.’ It changed the way I taught and listened to students, making me a better teacher, and helped me create an exciting, respectful classroom environment where my students gained confidence and competence in building shared mathematical understanding.

Kim Zeugner
Elementary Teacher

Fostering a discourse-rich classroom is essential for emergent multilingual learners to develop deep understandings of mathematics. The authors provide the what, why, and how of developing meaningful learning communities through practical, research-based suggestions that teachers can take directly into their classrooms. The inclusion of excerpts from real classrooms allows us insights into the teachers’ and learners’ experiences as we learn how to center and foster language in the mathematics classroom. This book is a great resource for teachers and teacher educators who wonder how to help move the math forward while students are acquiring language.

Zandra de Araujo
Associate Professor of Mathematics Education, University of Missouri

This book is set up well for grade-level teams to do a book study and set goals for how they are working towards creating a discourse community in their classrooms.

Joshua Males
K–12 Mathematics Curriculum Specialist

This is a needed resource right now. We teachers just aren’t doing this in our classrooms and we need a resource to develop this aspect of our instruction.

Kyle Cayce
Elementary Teacher

Sample Materials & Chapters

Activating Math Talk: Sample Pages

Paola Sztajn

Paola Sztajn is a Professor of Mathematics Education at North Carolina State University and is a Principal Investigator in Project AIM (All Included in Mathematics). Her research program focuses on elementary teachers’ professional development in mathematics and has been supported with several grants from different funding agencies. She has written over 90 papers, mostly focused on elementary school mathematics teachers and teaching. The overarching question guiding her over 20 years of work in mathematics education is: in which ways do practicing elementary teachers acquire and continue to develop the professional knowledge and identity... More About Author

Daniel Heck

Daniel Heck is Vice President of Horizon Research, Inc. in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and is a Principal Investigator in Project AIM. His research and development work spans many areas of mathematics education: classroom learning environments and discourse; teacher professional development design, enactment, and impacts; curriculum design and enactment; and student problem solving. Tying all of this work together is a central interest in how teaching and learning in school can tap into students’ intuitions, informal ideas, and insights to develop powerful, formal understandings of mathematics. He has enjoyed and benefitted from... More About Author

Kristen Malzahn

Kristen Malzahn is a Senior Researcher at Horizon Research, Inc. in Chapel Hill, NC and a co-Principal Investigator in Project AIM. She began her career as an elementary school teacher and went on to receive a M. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Over the past two decades, she has worked on several mathematics education research and evaluation projects and published a number of journal articles and book chapters, many of which focused on mathematics professional development for elementary and middle grades teachers. Understanding the successes and challenges of teaching, she is most... More About Author

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