This chapter started by
giving a "Tale of Four Students" where Sammons illustrated how little
a multiple choice answer tells us about student understanding, whether correct
or wrong. Open response items give us a clearer picture of student
thinking (as long as work is shown).

Math conferences are
one-on-one conversations with students about their mathematics work, as one
mathematician talking with another. (p 16)

**Characteristics of Guided
Math Conferences:**

- Conferences have a purpose.
- Conferences have a predictable
structure.
- Lines of thinking are pursued with
students.
- Teachers and students each have
conversational roles.
- Students are shown that teachers
care about them.

I
am really excited to read this book and figure out a predictable structure for
conferring with my students. I love the last point and totally agree that
by meeting one-on-one with students it shows you care about their learning and
helping them to be successful mathematicians. The importance of that
point cannot be overlooked.

**Guided
Math Conferences, Math Interviews, and Small-Group Instruction:**

- Guided Math Conferences- take
about five minutes, they are between the teacher and one student where you
focus on what the student is currently working on, and give assessment,
feedback, or individual instruction (using a teaching point)
- Math Interviews- last 5-10
minutes, they are between the teacher and one student where you focus in
on an instructional task introduced by the teacher and the purpose is for
assessment
- Small-Group Instruction- lasts
15-20 minutes, it's between the teacher and 2-6 students where you do a
group lesson, this is for group instruction of a focused lesson,
assessment, or feedback

Last year I definitely did small group instruction much more that
actual conferring. My small group instruction could be anywhere from 3-15
minutes working with a group, often based on entrance/exit slip data that was
primarily skill based. I'm really proud on how much small group instruction I
did with my students last year, but I can see room for improvement even on how
I did small group mini lessons. I am so excited that I am getting a
kidney table to use for this next year!

**Review and Reflect Questions:**

1. *How often are you able to engage your students
in one-on-one conversations about their mathematical thinking? * I
would say that I do this on a daily basis in my classroom, however, I certainly
don't do it everyday with every student. During the "work time"
portion of workshop I go around from group to group listening in on student
discourse. At this time I will sometimes interject when students become
stuck. Most of the time I do it for the whole group, not an individual
student. On MATHia days (our self paced computer program) I tend to me
more with students one-on-one if they become stuck on a problem.

2.* **What do you think is the most important benefit of math conferences? What are the greatest hurdles to implementing math conferences in your classroom? How could you overcome these hurdles?** *I think
the most important benefit is getting to know where each individual learner is
at, and then using that information to give specific feedback and instruction
to each individual learner. The greatest hurdles are time and for me at
this point it is creating the structure to do this in a meaningful and timely
manner. Hopefully I will have figured that out by the end of this book.
I can overcome the hurdles by careful planning, both how to structure the
conferences, and how they will fit into my math workshop.

3. *Think of a student in your class who is
struggling with a mathematical concept or skill. What would you like to
know about his or her mathematical thinking? What question would you ask if you
decide to confer with this student?* I would want to know
the thought process the student is using to solve the problem, but first I
would want him to read the problem and tell what it was asking him to do.
I would ask questions: What makes you think that? What is the question
this problem is asking? Can you tell me what you are thinking? I would
observe the step by step process they use to solve the problem. Also
before the students began I would have him mark the text of the problem.
This is a disciplinary literacy strategy that we use all the time in my
classroom and it is so helpful to focus students on what is pertinent
information they need to solve the problem.

I am really looking forward
to sharing ideas with others as we complete this summer book study. I
fully implemented workshop in my 7th grade math class last year, but know that
conferring was one of the areas I need to really improve on. I know this
book will help me figure it all out as I prepare myself for this coming school
year.