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All of the recent articles on the changes in math instruction and assessment has prompted many questions

and comments; So I decided perhaps it was time to share an update on the Math revolution I am seeing in
classrooms. I have posted access to some of the articles at the end of the update. This month we will focus
on instruction and next month on assessments and the rubrics teachers are using to assess mathematics.
The Common Core Standards in Mathematics (CCSM) has
provided an opportunity to transform the teaching and
learning of mathematics by positioning students in more
active roles as learners. Modeled after the mathematics
goals used by the high-performing schools of Japan and
Singapore (and grounded in research), the content
standards describe what students will know and the
practice standards describe how successful students will
demonstrate their proficiency in mathematics.

In 1991 the National Council Teachers
Mathematics (NCTM) identified communication,
with conversation as the key component, as
one of the six standards for teaching

A successful mathematics program emphasizes
frequent Math Talks in mathematics. MATH
TALKS, is defined by NCTM as “the ways of
representing, thinking, talking, and agreeing and
disagreeing that teachers and students use to
engage in a [mathematical] tasks” (NCTM, 1991).

The Standards discourage over-reliance on memorization
and isolated skills. Instead, teachers are urged to
emphasize problems that require critical thinking,
communication, and mastery of concepts that will
provide sturdier foundations for advanced learning.

Effective communication about mathematics is
essential in helping students develop the
thinking, self-questioning, and explanation skills
needed to master skills and concepts. Effective
communication happens when students articulate
their own ideas and seriously consider their
peers’ mathematical perspectives as a way to
construct mathematical understandings.

Mathematical Practices
1. Make  sense  of  problems  and  persevere  in  
solving  them  
2. Reason  abstractly  and  quan=ta=vely  
3. Construct  viable  arguments  and  cri=que  the  
reasoning  of  others  
4. Model  with  Mathema=cs  
5. Use  appropriate  tools  strategically  
6. AFend  to  precision  
7. Look  for  and  make  use  of  structure  
8. Look  for  and  express  regularity  in  repeated  

Encouraging students to construct their own
mathematical understanding through
conversation is an effective way to teach
mathematics. The role of the teacher
transforms from being a transmitter of
knowledge to one who presents worthwhile
and engaging mathematical tasks (Rich Math
Tasks). One of the more powerful teaching
strategies in the mathematics classroom is the
use of rich mathematical tasks (RMT) to promote
mathematical conversations.  Robust use of Rich


Math tasks creates the context for Math


ENRICH DESCRIBES “a rich task as having a range of characteristics that together offer different opportunities
to meet the different needs of learners at different times. What is also apparent is that much of what it takes
to make a rich task "rich" is the environment in which it is presented, which includes the support and
questioning that is used by the teacher and the roles that learners are encouraged to adopt. That is, an
environment in which learners are not passive recipients of knowledge, accepting what is given, but independent
assertive constructors of their own understanding who challenge and reflect. On its own a rich task is not
rich - it is only what is made of it that allows it to fulfilL its potential.” (WWW.ENRICH.ORG) We do not
need to be searching for rich tasks. A slight difference in a task or the way questions are posed can provide
ample opportunities for students to engage in meaningful, rigorous mathematics. The key is the orchestration
of the conversation.





• Focus on the “why” as well as the “how”

• Allow for multiple entry points and solution

• Challenge students to reason about
mathematics by looking for patterns, making
conjectures, conducting explorations, examining
connections between and among mathematical
concepts, and justifying mathematical solutions/

• Make explicit the connections between
mathematics and real-life experiences

• Encourage the use of different tools, including
technology, to explore mathematics and solve
mathematics problems

• Provide opportunities for collaboration to
communicate and critique mathematical

• Focus on the “why” as well as the “how”

• Encourage students to justify and explain
their solution strategies

• Encourage students to critique the
mathematical reasoning of others

• Support students in advancing, but not taking
over their thinking as they engage in a
productive struggle with mathematics

• Elicit and make connections between different
mathematical ideas and/or approaches to the
same problem

What does a Math Talk look like… sound like in the classroom? (Adapted from The Routy Math Teacher)

Looks Like
• Students  are  sharing  solu=on  strategies  in  small  groups  
• Teacher  uses  “wait  ;me”to  support  student  thinking  
and  encourage  deep  thinking  
• Students  compare  and  connect  their  solu=on  
strategies  with  other  students’  solu;ons  
• Students  work  collabora;vely  as  a  community  of  
learners  to  support  each  other  
• Students  and  teacher  par;cipa;ng  and  engaging  in  

Sounds Like
• Teacher  uses  the  students’  ideas  to  guide  them  to  the  
correct  solu;on.    
• Students  reflect  on  what  others  say  during  instruc;on  
• Teacher  guides  discussion  to  stay  focused  on  topic  
• Teachers  asks  students  to  ask  ques=ons  about  another  
student’s  response  
• Students  repeat,  rephrase,  summarize,  translate,  and  
build  on  the  thinking  of  others.  
• Mistakes  are  used  as  learning  tools.

On the live binders (, I have posted the Math Talk Learning Rubric which describe levels and
components of a Math-Talk Learning Community.

Yesterday, in my emails I received another great example of what is happening in math classrooms, PreK-12. Allison
is a third grade teacher at the American School of Madrid.

Hi  Erma,  
This  morning  I  ran  my  math  class  like  you  ran  our  module  this  past  weekend.  We  had  a  small  discussion  first  
about  the  importance  of  the  WHY  we  should  understand  our  thinking.  We  then  only  solved  3  (rich)  word  
problems  throughout  the  hour  block.  
Kids  first  read  the  problem,  solved  it  independently,  then  broke  off  into  groups  to  share  their  thinking.  It  was  
VERY  successful  and  just  wanted  to  share  with  you!  Every  one  of  my  students  drew  a  model,  wrote  an  equa;on  
to  support  the  model  and  wrote  word  reasoning  as  to  how  they  arrived  at  their  answer.  Even  the  kids  that  are  
hesitant  to  write  a  strong  reasoning  nailed  it.  
Safe  travels  and  see  you  in  April.  

Thanks to all who have shared their success and samples of student work!!! Providing opportunities for rich math
talks make a difference! In her new book Mathematical Mindsets, Jo Boaler, devoted a chapter (5) to rich
mathematical tasks stating “Mathematics is a subject that allows for precise thinking, but when that precise
thinking is combined with creativity, flexibility, and multiplicity of ideas, the mathematics comes alive for people.
Teachers can create such mathematical excitement in classrooms, with any task, by asking students for the
different ways they see and can solve tasks and by encouraging discussion of different ways of seeing

I am excited by the changes I am seeing in math classrooms. Without rich tasks you cannot address the actions
that are important to mathematics, the mathematical practices! The inclusion of the mathematical practices in daily
instruction is critical and the secret to success is for less teacher to student conversation and more student to
student conversation.


Links to articles mentioned
How the Department of Defense Schools are teaching their version of the Common Core.

Many parents hated Common Core math at first, before figuring it out

The Math Revolution

New, Reading-Heavy SAT Has Students Worried

The Math Class Paradox