Get Students Talking Math

How do we encourage mathematical discourse? Many students naturally enjoy talking, but how do we get them talking math?

Fostering math talk is important. Sometimes students benefit from scaffolding or visual reminders. Question stems or prompts can be used as a scaffold until students can engage in math talk naturally. They also can be used to encourage conversations to go more deeply.


These math spots can be used to spark conversations. Math spots can be displayed around the room or on a bulletin board. They can be added as a routine in small group instruction where students pick a spot to elicit math reasoning and metacognition. The spots can be used to model visible thinking during guided math. When students are problem solving with a partner, math spots can be used to encourage math dialogue beyond simply finding the answer.

Here are three sites that can be used as a bell ringer or a launch where students can discuss their thinking and defend their reasoning. These might help integrate math talk at the start of your math block.

Check these out:

Would You Rather Math?
Who doesn't like a would you rather question? The twist here is students have to justify their reasoning using mathematics. You can differentiate questions by grade level bands: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12.  Scroll through to find a question that relates to your topic of study. Studying volume? Check out this swimming pool question: Would You Rather - Swimming Pool.

Which One Does Not Belong?
So many times in mathematics, students think there is one right answer. These puzzle-like questions require students to look at a problem through different lenses. No answer keys are provided because there are many correct answers. Students look at four shapes, numbers, or graphs, and choose one that does not belong, defending their reasoning of course. Differentiate the task by asking students to explain why two do not belong. Challenge students to find a reason why each one does not belong.

Fraction Talks
You can project an image, shade in a region, and ask students, "What fraction is shaded?" Students then can discuss their approaches and defend their thinking. Modeling this process can help scaffold the task for learners and set expectations. You can differentiate the task by asking questions like: Is there any other region representing the same fraction?

How do you foster math talk in your classroom?


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