Math Sense, Chapter 5, The Sound of the Lesson - Math Coach's Corner

This book study is currently taking an in-depth look at Math Sense: The Look, Sound, and Feel of Effective Math Instruction, by Christine Moynihan. You can view summaries of previous chapters by clicking on the links below.

Here’s the reading schedule (use the links to visit any of the posts):

Chapter 5, The Sound of the Lesson

I’m going to kick off tonight’s book study with a question: When you think of your classroom during math instruction, does it buzz “with engaged talk and conversation”? (pg. 76)

This is, hands down, my favorite chapter in the book! There is so much great material here, I don’t know where to start. How about a chapter blueprint? The author lists eight components related to how math instruction should sound, divided into three categories:

  1. The sound of teachers
  2. The sound of students
  3. The sound of students and teachers

Let’s look at the role of the teacher as outlined in this chapter: (1) Teachers supporting discourse, (2) Teachers providing lesson summation/reflection/closure, and (3) Teachers engaging all students. I don’t know about you, but that’s the teacher I want to be. This chapter more than any of the previous chapters references the Common Core Mathematical Practice standards. I highlighted a quote from page 77 about Mathematical Practice 3: Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others (CCSSI 2010):

“When students communicate clearly and articulate their ideas to others, their thinking becomes visible and their understanding deepens.”

Moynihan references a book called Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn. I just received that book a couple of days ago, and I didn’t even get past the Introduction of the book before finding this fabulous quote: “Getting students to talk about mathematical content is one of the best ways to engage in formative assessment. An additional benefit is that students may themselves realize what they don’t understand and what they do understand. This allows them to adjust their own reasoning, and over time it may improve their metacognitive abilities.”

I love the charts for Rephrase, Rewind, Review, and Recharge on pages 79 and 80. The Amplification column gives teachers the words to use to step out of their comfort zone and become a facilitator of learning, instead of a giver of knowledge. They would be a great couple of pages to copy, keep close by, and glance at right before your math lesson. Change is always easier with baby steps, so maybe choose two or three of the stems to try out at a time, and gradually build your repertoire.

Likewise, the chart on page 85 provides seven excellent strategies for ensuring “that all students are physically, cognitively, and affectively engaged” (pg. 83) in the lesson. I guess that, being from Texas, it’s natural that I’d like the True/False Two-Step! Having students step forward or back to indicate if they agree or disagree with a statement is a nice change of pace from thumbs up/thumbs down. It’s no secret that kiddos respond to movement.

I had to laugh when I read the following passage on page 88: “If you have ever taught at a primary grade, see whether this sounds familiar: A student has just finished explaining his answer, and you ask, “Who solved it a different way than Daniel did?” Hands fly up and you choose someone who proceeds to describe the identical solution strategy as Daniel’s!”  I’ve been modeling a LOT of number talks in classrooms, and this happens all…the…time! I will definitely be trying out the strategy of asking students to tell me one thing they did the same and one thing that was different.

So I’ll end with a slightly different version of the question I started with: What steps will you take this week to increase the buzz of engaged talk and conversation in your math classroom?

Recommended Resources

Here are links to the recommended resources listed throughout the chapter:

Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn
* Wonderful resource.  A perfect compliment to Number Talks.

Math Exchanges: Guiding Young Mathematicians in Small-Group Meetings

Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner

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