Mathematical discourse is essential for deep mathematical learning. We often spend a lot of time teaching our students how to talk to one another with sentence stems, practiced conversations, and teacher talk moves. However, before we can even teach students how to talk, we must make sure that our classroom is a place where students feel comfortable talking.
There are a few things that can be done at the beginning of the school year and throughout the year to make a classroom a safe community where students feel comfortable sharing their thinking, having mathematical arguments, and questioning ideas.
1. Teach students to respect others' ideas, especially when they are different from their own
2. Celebrate mistakes and encourage risk taking.
3. Value multiple strategies and focus less on the answer.
4. Question everything.
Classrooms where students feel safe to make mistakes, share their thinking, and ask questions set the stage for productive mathematical discourse. Although it can be easy to want to dive into teaching students how to talk to one another, it is important to remember that there is work that must be done to build a trusting community before deep mathematical conversations can happen.
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