James Burnett

Make a Change for Good: Part 5

Using classroom discourse to modernize elementary math instruction

This article is the last of a five-part series on using what we know to modernize elementary math instruction.

In the first article in this series, I introduced four “influences or actions” that come from John Hattie’s (2017) groundbreaking research. This article will focus on the fourth influence on the list.

  1. Implement a “spaced” program of learning mathematical ideas over time
  2. Adopt a Piagetian approach to teaching mathematics concepts and skills
  3. Develop students’ mathematical language
  4. Foster discourse in the mathematics classroom

Foster discourse in the mathematics classroom

Rounding out the four “influences or actions” that will make the biggest difference to instruction, is the use of classroom discourse. Part 4 of this series stressed the need to develop vocabulary, because language is the tool we use to help connect new ideas to existing ideas. It therefore makes sense to create opportunities for students to use their language so they can make those connections. Classroom discourse is the forum in which students can use their language. This discourse can and should occur between teachers and learners, but also between and among learners themselves. Sara Delano Moore, a contributing author to Visible Learning for Mathematics, explains in this blog article how to generate classroom discourse by posing purposeful questions and through the use of appropriate tasks.

With an effect size of 0.82, we now know that meaningful mathematical discourse is likely to give two years of gains for each year of schooling. It’s no wonder that the generation of “mathematical discourse” officially receives mention in every state, national, and international standards that have been written in recent years. However, fostering classroom discourse is not just good teaching practice, it also serves to better prepare students for the workforce of today. Deming (2017) noted that when surveyed, employers routinely listed teamwork, collaboration, and oral communication skills as among the most valuable, yet hard-to-find qualities of workers. Giving students opportunities to communicate and collaborate is not only for mathematical understanding, they are developing the social skills they need to land a job when they graduate.

New technologies are making us feel like society is moving forward faster than ever before. Yet, generally speaking, education and the teaching of mathematics, has remained pretty much unchanged for decades. We can certainly tweak standards of content, but a major shift in the approach to teaching the content needs to take hold and stick. We can no longer afford to look at what “works” as we have too much catching up to do. It’s now time to identify and implement what works best. Embracing these four influences or actions is a great start toward making a serious “Change for Good.”

  1. Implement a “spaced” program of learning mathematical ideas over time
  2. Adopt a Piagetian approach to teaching mathematics concepts and skills
  3. Develop students’ mathematical language
  4. Foster discourse in the mathematics classroom

supporting instructional change 3

References

Deming, David J. “The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 132, no. 4, 1 Nov. 2017, pp. 1593–1640., doi:10.3386/w21473.

Hattie, J., Fisher, D., Frey, N., Gojak, L.M., Moore, S.D., Mellman, W. (2017).  Visible Learning for Mathematics.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

 

About ORIGO Education

ORIGO Education is dedicated to making learning meaningful, enjoyable and accessible for all students and their teachers with Pre-K and Elementary print and digital instructional materials, as well as professional learning for mathematics.

2 responses to “Make a Change for Good: Part 5”

  1. I shall always remember a teacher in a support session complaining to me that the Origo lessons required his students to talk a lot. He still saw it as his role to do the talking.

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