Meaningful Discourse in Math from a Teacher’s Perspective

What I want for my students…

  • They develop their number sense
  • We reverse a negative mathematical identity
  • They can hit the math standards
  • We strengthen their foundational skills

What I value in a math lesson:

  • It engages my students
  • The lesson is engaging for me
  • I can reach all students (low floor/high ceiling)
  • It surfaces the information I need to understand where each student is
  • It allows me to show my students that I expect great things from them
  • It allows me to show my students that they are important to me.
  • I can position my students as capable learners
  • It allows my students to feel successful
  • It allows me to feel successful

When planning a lesson…

  • I don’t want to waste a lot of my time/money putting together materials for the lesson if I’m going to be asked to do something different next year.
  • I don’t want to reinvent the wheel.
  • I want to feel confident that if the lesson veers off course, I can adjust to get back on track
  • I don’t want to feel overwhelmed by the task — I already have enough demands placed on me, thank you.

To do that, I need..

  • Ideas for how to supplement our math curriculum with instructional strategies like Number Talks
  • Time to figure out with my colleagues how to best work these in
  • School administration within my building to support me in these efforts

I know I’m successful right away when…

  • I can see an Aha moment
  • Students get so excited by something they’ve learned they want to share it with someone else.
  • I see students make connections to things outside of the lesson/classroom

I know I’m successful over time when…

  • The class gets easier to manage
  • Students are more confident in their abilities
  • Students are more willing to participate, discussions get deeper and are more often student led
  • Students provide positive feedback to each other
  • Test scores improve

And since everyone demands accountability, it would be great if…

  • I had a way to produce artifacts that allow me to easily capture where students are in their understanding without disrupting the flow of a discussion
  • We had assessment methods that captured these qualitative measures that a) don’t place a new burden on me, and b) satisfy the district.

I can see that, done well, meaningful discourse provides…

  • The possibility to engage students
  • The chance to see aha moments
  • An opportunity to acknowledge different perspectives
  • An opportunity for student led learning
  • A chance to develop students’ ability to engage in respectful dialog
  • For students who might struggle with algorithms, an on-ramp to understand the logic behind them
  • A greater likelihood that students gain a real understanding of math concepts

But I worry that…

  • I will end up with kids talking, but not meaningful discourse…
  • … or kids won’t talk at all
  • I won’t have the support I need to get good at this
  • The discussion will lead me into areas where I am not prepared
  • A negative experience will cause students to shut down
  • I won’t be able to manage the discussion and things will get out of hand.
  • It may not impact test scores soon enough, or at all
  • It will cause me to fall behind the pacing guide and that will reflect negatively on me
  • When administration walks by my class it won’t look like what they expect teaching to look like.
  • Discourse will eat up more time than I had planned
  • I’ll get conflicting feedback from district and school administration
  • Outside observations will be too short to provide quality feedback and even if I did, I won’t get it in a time-frame that allows me to make use of it.
  • The qualities that make meaningful discourse useful aren’t being assessed and it will be undervalued by district administration.

This profile was developed at our Systems Thinking Institute Workshop March 15-16, 2018