Sunday, July 14, 2013

Minds on Math Book Study-Chapter 5 "Discourse"

Minds on Mathematics Book Study

If this is your first time joining our book study please click on the button above and it will link to all previous posts.  Feel free to go back and add a link to any previous chapters.  You can link up your post on Chapter 5 at the bottom of this post.  Please visit the other bloggers who have linked up below and leave them comments.  Lots of great ideas are being posted on other blogs!

This chapter was filled with lots of great examples of how to promote effective discourse in your mathematics classroom.  It is so important to model for our students what we expect them to be doing during discussions.  One of my favorite sections in this chapters was on creating an atmosphere of respect for thinking.  I loved the example where the little girl said, "I disagree with myself".  We need to create a classroom culture where students take risks to share their ideas knowing that others might disagree or ask for clarification.  By inviting peer comments and questions students begin critiquing each others' work and thinking.

We need to be careful as teachers that we don't shut down the opportunity for great discourse by jumping in with an affirming comment, causing the students to stop sharing.  I know I have a habit of doing this and really need to work on keeping the discussion going by doing things like promoting questioning, inviting comparison, checking for agreement, and encouraging divergent thinking.  I like the idea of having sentence stems for students for students to explain their thinking of to respond to the ideas of others.

Taking time to uncover errors is another thing I really need to spend more time focusing on.  Students come to us with many mathematical misconceptions, some of which they hold on to very tightly.  It is worth our time and effort to analyze these errors which will lead to a deeper understanding of the concept.

Moving forward I see many strategies I will employ this year as I transition to math workshop.  I felt my students had very rich discourse this past year, but see so many areas where I can take them to the next level which will promote a much deeper understanding of the math they are learning.

Thanks everyone for joining our discussion on Chapter 5!


  1. Discourse

    I think what registered the most for me was the statement that too often, we (teachers) feel that we can explain things best. It takes time getting our students to articulate accurately the process they took to get to their solution. Students do need the opportunity to wrestle with their ideas. To get discourse really flowing in the classroom, we have to make sure that we’ve created a supportive classroom. Students are taking a risk every time they choose to share. I also want my students to feel safe enough to take the risk and possibly be wrong. We have to be ready to address students whose comments are distracting from the classroom climate. This book encourages us to call out those students, in a very respectful way, so that all students learn what is and is not acceptable behavior. There is so much to be learned from incorrect thinking. It allows us the opportunity to refocus the students and clarify misconceptions.

    We also have to remember to use our wait time. I’m going to struggle with being a better a listener, and less of a presenter. I think this will be especially challenging when I am crunched for time.

    I made a few posters with discussion starters so that students struggling to contribute can refer to the poster. P. 76 and 77 have many great examples. I also made a poster with the saying, “It is okay not to know, but it is not okay not to try to know”. This is on p. 79 in the box.

    1. That wait time can be such a challenge, especially with the constraints of only teaching them for 60 min a day.

      Can't wait to see your posters!

  2. I'm at an AVID conference. I forgot my book so I'll post when I get back.

  3. I just came from a conference for AVID and it really goes along with this chapter. We modeled Socratic Seminars and Philosophical Chairs in math. It was a lot of fun and I think it can keep the students engaged in discourse easily. Philosophical chairs was essentially a friendly debate. They used it as a warm up activity by having us guess which cylinder had more volume (short and fat or tall and skinny). Students can switch sides during the debate and are openly presenting what they chose. We had a quick write time before the debate so we could form our own opinions before asked to take a side, just like the book mentions on pg. 74. The Socratic Seminar worked amazing for math. We used a pilot/copilot form so that students did not feel too much pressure. They pilots were in the circle, but they could turn around and discuss with their copilots before talking to the group. The idea of the Socratic seminar though is to build on the ideas, not to debate them. I found both activities very helpful and a great tie in to this chapter.

  4. Discourse engages learned, promotes understanding, develops communication and collaboration skills and supports academic language development. What more could you ask for.
    On page 68 it talks about QRE (question response evaluation). A typical teacher does this, I know I have. The first thing that comes to mind is integers. I'm constantly making up story problems or real life money situations for them to understand -4. I need to turn it over to them and ask them to put it in a story and see what they come up with. If they see 6-10= They need to engage in conversations with peers about why if you had 6 dollars, but you owed someone 10, why you would end up with -4. They need to take ownership, which is the point of discourse. They need to be able to think and respond to others thinking.

    Students need to know that it is okay to change their mind (ch 4). In order to understand something, you need opportunities to test and defend theories and see if what you thought really is true. Discourse welcomes multiple approaches and that half of the time when you get something wrong you will learn more than if you get it correct. Incorrect answers are stepping stones to understanding. (First you have to build a strong community).

    "Learning is more likely to change through dialogue and reflection than through lecture and imposition." -this just proves we need to change our way of teaching. No more lecturing and more challenging questions with lots of conversations. Teachers need to talk less and listen more.

    I really like all of the bullet points throughout the chapter. They all offer great descriptions on how to run your classroom and the types of questions to ask that will help reflection.

    This chapter really offers good advice on how to turn your classroom around and make it more student centered. Students are describing, listening, thinking, talking, and working. But we also need to model how to have good conversations that stay on task and halt any side conversations that occur. This happens through good modeling and guiding. When a student can teach another student how to do something, they not only are understanding it better, but many times learners can explain ideas more accessible to students in the group so that student understands it more.

    An ah ha moment for me was to not jump in and say things like "you are exactly right." Even if a learner is exactly right, by announcing that to the group, you have stopped all thinking because now they have the "answer".

    I really liked all the sentence starters. I think those will be beneficial to have hung around the room. And I really like the 4 ways to handle students who say "I don't know" on page 79.

    Overall, this really helped me in how to set up my classroom and how students need to be the driving force in the classroom. They need to be the ones opening conversations, they need to be the ones defending their answers with good support, they need to challenge one another, they need to be in charge of their own learning. The teacher is there to facilitate learning and model expectations. They need to step aside and allow the students to shine and show that they are capable of brilliance.


  5. I loved all the examples shared in this chapter. I feel like it has been the chapter with the most practical application thus far. So many questions stems and scaffolding ideas... I also loved the responses to "IDK." It's so important to see it as a teachable moment and take advantage.


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