Three Cheers for Talking Points!

My Talk on Talking Points

My new favourite technique for getting students to communicate mathematically, in a way that requires them to reason and justify their thinking, is Talking Points! Over the years, I have used different methods as a way to elicit student thinking; however, I love the way talking points encourage each child to contribute in a non-threatening manner. But before I rave about talking points, let me explain how they work.

How To:

First, you prepare a math statement to be discussed (the talking point).

Then, put students into groups so they can go through two rounds as follows:

Round 1:

  • Read the statement aloud.
  • Take turns stating if you agree, disagree, or are unsure.
  • Explain your reasoning. (The most important part!)

Round 2:

  • Go back around.
  • Say if you still agree, disagree, or are unsure or if you changed your mind.
  • Explain your reasoning only if you changed your mind.

What are the advantages of learning math through talking points?

  • It is student-centered! I’m not telling them what I think, the students are teaching each other.
  • It creates a safe zone for mistake-makers! Students don’t need to be afraid of being wrong, they can say they are unsure or change their answer in round two.
  • It allows for everyone to be heard! Not holding the talking stick? Then you can’t interject, argue or contribute.
  • It helps students develop their curricular competencies (BC lingo) in a meaningful and authentic way:  1) Reason and Analyze 2) Understand and Solve 3) Communicate and Represent  4) Connect and Reflect
  • Communicating with others helps students make sense of the math!

What kind of things can be turned into talking points?

Anything! But have your end goal in mind. The statements can be true, false, or debatable! That is half the fun!

Want to emphasize the importance of estimation? Then use this: Everyone needs to learn how to estimate.

Want to emphasize that the size of the fractional parts need to all be the same? Then use this: This picture  shows a whole divided into thirds.     


Want students to notice that multiplication is repeated addition? Then use this: 2+2+2+2=8 is an example of multiplication.

Want students to think about the angles in a triangle? Then use this: A right triangle has all right angles.

Talking Points in Action

Here is a video of my family engaging with some talking points. Rory is great at it…he loves to talk…no idea where he gets that from! Oliver surprised me! At almost 4, and a bit of an intravert, I didn’t expect him to justify his opinion, but as you’ll see: even pre-schoolers can engage in meaningful discourse about mathematics!

Still not convinced your primary students can use Talking Points? Model it with the class and have 4 students participate in one Talking Point while the rest of the class listens. Have enough talking points ready so that everyone will get a turn (i.e. 5 points for a class of 20) and then listen to the amazing things your kids come up with! Use pictures! You don’t need ‘a statement’ persay, just something provocative to get them thinking. Can’t think of talking points appropriate for that age group? Click here for a list of ideas to get you started!

Have fun channeling your students’ chatter!

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