#### Maths – it’s good to talk! But what are we talking about…?

We need to consider structure and modelling, but also whether our tasks are worth talking about…

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by Blackpool Research School

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EEF recently released the latest in their ‘Voices from the Classroom’ series of videos which feature practitioners explaining how they put evidence into practice in their setting.

In the video, Helen Jones – Assistant Maths Hub Lead for Yorkshire Ridings Maths Hub – explains why mathematical discussion is important, how it can be incorporated into lessons, and why it is essential for adults to model effective discussion strategies.

This blog should be read alongside the video, and provides prompts and questions for discussion and reflection. You might use them to consider your own practice, or maybe as part of a team meeting or audit of exisiting practice in your school.

Section 1: why is mathematical discussion important?

- Do your pupils have a toolkit of vocabulary, sentence stems, and oracy strategies?
- Is practice stronger in some areas than in others? For example, has lots of work been done developing the explicit teaching of vocabulary, but less on specific talk strategies?
- Is discussion prevalent in maths lessons?
- Are teachers skilled in ‘listening in’ to mathematical discussion and using it as an assessment tool and a way of picking up misconceptions?

**Section 2: How can mathematical discussion be incorporated into lessons?**

Helen lists a number of ways in which discussion can be incorporated into maths lessons. For example, asking pupils to work together on a problem.

- How might you model, introduce, and scaffold this?
- What specific strategies could be explicitly taught across the school to support with this? For example, ‘Turn and Talk’ or ‘Think, Pair, Share’.
- How might you gradually extend the length of the discussions as pupils become more confident and proficient at discussing mathematical ideas?
- How can you ensure the problems are ‘worth talking about’ (see our blog here)?

Helen’s favourite question to ask is ‘What do you notice?’.

- What questions will you pose in order to frame the discussions?
- Will there be some consistency in these questions across the team?
- Can these be developed collaboratively in order to support less experienced colleagues?
- Do you give enough thinking time to ensure discussions are as rich as they can be?

**Section 3: Why is it important for adults to model effective discussion in maths lessons?**

As Helen says in the video: ‘More talk does not always mean more effective talk’.

- How effectively do you and others in your school model mathematical thinking through talk?
- Are teachers encouraging a focus on the process as well as the answer? Does this include using a ‘think aloud’ approach?

**Section 4: What does modelling an effective listener look like?**

Helen uses the ABCQ model to support children in becoming effective listeners.

*A – I agree*

*B – I’d like to build*

*C – I’d like to challenge*

*Q – I’d like to pose a question*

This is effective, as it ‘ping pongs’ discussion around the class rather than focusing on the teacher.

- Is mathematical discussion in your school too focused on the teacher, and what steps might you take to develop this?
- Finally, is mathematical talk a priority focus for teacher professional development in your school?

We need to consider structure and modelling, but also whether our tasks are worth talking about…

One school’s story of developing a culture of reading, one step at a time.

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