Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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CommunicationSession 02 Overviewtab atab bTab ctab dtab eReference
Part C

Defining Communication
  The Communication Standard | Using Effective Questioning | Using Precise Language | Additional Communication Strategies | Communication and the Other Process Standards | The Classroom Environment | Summary | Your Journal
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Questioning and using precise language are two aspects of effective mathematical communication. The teacher plays a critical role in constructing classroom experiences so that students have varied opportunities to communicate mathematically.

Working in Groups

It is important for students to share with one another the strategies they use to complete mathematical tasks. This helps students make sense of the mathematics and expands their understanding and ability by explaining and listening. Designing classroom experiences around having students work in groups enables students to ask one another questions, verbalize their thought processes, and clarify understanding as well as misunderstandings.

Successful group work does not "just happen" in the mathematics classroom. Here are some questions to consider as you think about group work in your classroom:

  • Some mathematical tasks are more suitable for group exploration than others. What are the characteristics of such tasks?
  • What elements are critical in planning a lesson that will give students opportunities to work successfully in groups?
  • How does the teacher's role change throughout such a lesson?
  • How can teachers use group experiences to inform their instruction and to assess student understanding of a mathematical concept?

Watch the video segment (duration 0:30) at left to hear a reflection from Bill Stevenson, a middle school mathematics teacher.


Writing is a means for students to organize, summarize, and communicate their thinking. Writing increases retention of concepts and gives students opportunities to reflect on their thinking. As in other subject areas, preparing a rough draft should be the first step in the process of writing in mathematics. Polishing and refining ideas becomes the goal as students explore concepts and clarify their understanding of the mathematics. Here are some questions to consider as you think about writing:

  • How is writing in mathematics similar to writing in other subject areas? How is it different?
  • What are some specific steps that you can take to help students develop writing skills in mathematics?
Student Presentations

The middle school years are full of wonder. Students are curious and eager to learn, yet they are often reluctant to stand in front of peers to present their ideas. Classroom presentations are another way for students to share their strategies, insights, and ideas to help other students in the class make sense of the concepts. Here are some questions to consider as you think about student presentations:

  • How do you set classroom norms for effective student presentations? What are those norms? (If you don't do this, how might you go about it? What do you think those norms should be?)
  • How would you use your communication skills to probe incorrect or incomplete responses without having students feel like they were wrong?
  • How do student presentations (both informal and formal) contribute to the learning environment for all students in the classroom?

"There are several reasons why presentations are appropriate in a math classroom. In my class, I have largely second-language speakers, and yet, when they come forward to explain the mathematics, to explain their thinking, to show what they know, they can do that. They're speaking a third language, they're speaking mathematics." -- Ruth Ann Duncan, grade 7-8 teacher

We have reflected on examples of communication from middle school mathematics classrooms relating to the Fraction Tracks game and some problem tasks with fractions as ratios. By now, the important role of communication in your mathematics teaching and student learning should be very clear. Now let's take a look at communication in the context of the other Process Standards.

Next  How communication relates to the other Process Standards

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