Research School Network: Blog: Let’s Talk Maths Grace Coker explains how to develop mathematical talk within classrooms


Blog: Let’s Talk Maths

Grace Coker explains how to develop mathematical talk within classrooms

by Research Schools Network
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Grace Coker is the EEF’s Content Specialist for Mathematics and a primary school teacher and school leader in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

I love it when you put our maths books in different places! I want to find out who I will be working with and talking to today.”

As a teacher, I have always been interested in how to develop mathematical talk within my classroom. Giving children opportunities to explain their reasoning using mathematical language, discuss and debate approaches to problem solving, and vocalise a modelled answer is key.

But, how can we create the ideal learning environment where all children are willing and confident to share their ideas?

There is a wealth of evidence, which indicates that talk can play an important role in supporting mathematical learning. This is reflected in multiple recommendations across the EEF’s ​‘Improving Mathematics in the Early Years and Key Stage 1 and ​‘Improving Mathematics in Key Stages 2 and 3 guidance reports.

One idea that I have found useful in my classroom is ensuring that I explicitly plan short, daily opportunities for children to engage in high-quality mathematical talk. Each session can look quite different but the aim is to prompt meaningful mathematical discussions and encourage children to make connections.

This links to Recommendation 2 of the EEF’s Improving Maths in the Early Years and Key Stage 1 guidance report, which highlights the importance of creating regular opportunities for extended discussion of mathematical ideas with children.

One way that I do this is by sharing carefully chosen images, storybooks or games to prompt exploration of challenging concepts or misconceptions children had in previous learning.

For example, during a recent session looking at estimation, I asked children to discuss the following image in groups of three, using the question prompts: What can you see?’ What do you know?’ and What do you wonder?’ to support their discussion.


During discussions, I expect all children to take part. To encourage participation, I like to change who the children sit next to in each session. This allows children to discuss their learning with a wide range of their peers, and to consider and debate a broader range of ideas and viewpoints.

As children talk, I listen carefully to their explanations and responses, reinforcing mathematical vocabulary. This allows me to gain valuable insight into children’s current thinking and understanding, helping to inform my future teaching.

Incorporating maths talk sessions deliberately into daily routines has provided a valuable opportunity to listen to children’s understanding of concepts, seize chances to reinforce mathematical vocabulary and consider appropriate prompt questions to reveal understanding.

Further reading

EEF Blog: Four evidence-informed principles to promote high quality talk in maths

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