Why is it acceptable to dismiss math by saying “I’m not good at math!” or “I suck at math, don’t ask me!” Society has made it ok to acknowledge freely that we are awful at math and it is completely normal. Once with my fellow colleagues, we were asked to watch a YouTube video of Patricia Heaton (from Everybody loves Raymond) on Who Wants to be a Millionaire where she had to answer a simple math equation. It seems quite comical because the problem is so simple but she gives up right away. Without even trying she uses up a lifeline that runs out of time. She exclaims “I am so bad at math!” Which seems a great place to hide behind so that she doesn’t have to begin the process of problem solving. I have to admit I do this all the time. I usually ask my husband to solve my simple math problems and when he tells me to try myself, I usually get annoyed saying “this is why I married you! To solve all my math problems so I don’t have to!” The great part of this video is that Regis then engages in “Math Talk” with Patricia and helps her think it through. She is finally able to get the correct answer all on her own. This clip is so powerful in sharing the capabilities we have when we are able to talk.

Here is the video which is a great clip to share in a classroom to elicit conversations about math anxiety, math talk, teaching and learning in math and triumph.

Here is the YouTube video on Patricia Heaton

Mathematical Discourse or Math Talk is an effective means for allowing students to explain, reason and discuss mathematical thinking with each other in meaningful ways. Allowing students opportunities to engage in math talk allows them take ownership when it comes to knowledge development, where students can learn from each other and dig deeper into a problem collectively. In addition math talk supports the student as a social learning and creates a community of learners who are comfortable and feel safe sharing their ups and downs as they engage in math activities.

The following is an excellent resource that shares strategies for classroom discussions in particular the use of “Talk Moves”

When students talk about mathematics in a purposeful way it reveals their understanding of concepts and the thinking behind their reasoning. Research shows that “asking students to talk (or use Talk Moves) about mathematical concepts, procedures, and problem solving helps students understand more deeply and with greater clarity” according to Chapin, O`Connor and Anderson.

Talk Moves are described as six key moves to help students engage in meaningful math talk;

1) Say More, ask students to elaborate

2) Revoicing, teacher repeats part or all of the students explanation and asks for verification of interpretation

3) Repetition, teacher ask students to restate someone else`s reasoning

4) Press for reasoning, teacher asks student to explain how or why they came to their solution

5) Do you Agree or Disagree, teacher asks students and also asks to justify why

6) Wait time, teacher allows quiet thinking time to develop responses

The following are some links on math talk research and key components within a Math-Talk Learning Community.

“http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/studentsuccess/lms/mathTalk.pdf” title=”Math Talk Community”

Yours in Education,

Salima