One of the most important ways to solidify a thought process is verbally teach someone else. Children naturally want to discuss what they are doing and how they are doing it. Sometimes when it comes to talking out math concepts though, it can be tricky. We as teachers, want to provide students with the path they need to excel in this process. How do we do this? We provide students the tools and strategies they need to explain the WHY in their math. We don’t want our students to just solve math as robots, simply plugging numbers into an algorithm and producing answers. We want students to involve their own explanations into the computation process. Providing explanations will ensure that students truly understand the mathematical process. How can students become leaders in discussing their math thinking process? We can use “Math Chats.” Think of it as just talking with friends about something you love. It becomes exciting and engaging! That is how Math Chats are designed. When students are confident with talking about math, they provide strong discussions. Students can talk in groups and partnerships to develop higher level thinking and build on one another’s ideas. To get started, be the model. While I teach, I say everything I am thinking out loud. I let them hear all of my own metacognition until my math language becomes their math language. For example, while I teach a lesson about adding three numbers, I will say, “Let’s look at 6+3+7, I want to find a way to make a ten to make my number easier to add. I see 3+7 which equals 10. Then I will add 6+10=16.” I show students out loud what is going on during my mental math process. The next step is to have students turn and talk with a partner. Some great tools to have for this are whiteboards and markers. When students turn to their partners give them an example to solve together. This will drive the thinking out loud process. Encourage the students to tell their partner why or why something is correct. While you are just getting your students started with math chats, provide them with some sentence starters on chart paper. These may look like:
These templates not only provide students with the words to help drive their explanations, but also foster some great classroom rapport. Students are promoted to be kind with their discussions. I provide students opportunities to kindly disagree as long as they can provide why and present a detailed strategy for solving the problem. Another great partner activity is to have students write their own story problems and present to a partner to solve it. This provides students opportunities to be on both the creating end and the solving end of the story problem. Where does this math chat lead? Well, all throughout Eureka math students are prompted to explain their thinking at the end of a performance task. When students read the phrase: Explain your Thinking, it can often give students the deer in headlights feeling. Students may actually know how to solve the problem, but not how to explain to someone else or put into writing exactly what they did.
Giving students this foundation of rehearsed routines provides a platform for not only their own understanding of the math process, but have the ability to teach someone else. When students take on the owner ship of their own learning, they create a strong connection and meaning to their learning. We are building life-long mathematicians who will go on to do great unimaginable things! Quick Tips for Fostering Math Chats
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