More Talk to Create Equitable Spaces

One of the areas where I focus my work is on creating spaces for students to develop learning communities where they can see themselves as capable mathematicians who learn from each other.

In a recent webinar, one of the Talk Moves authors, Dr. Nancy Anderson, and I discuss some specific strategies to support teachers who are struggling to get students talking in online or hybrid learning environments because either the students aren’t physically in classrooms or because ways of interacting are different with social distancing precautions.

  • Choose a digital tool (ex. Google Slides, Jamboard, or that students can use to share their thinking and reasoning during partner or small group work. The tools can provide a space for students to show their work and discuss their approaches and solutions. Teachers can watch students work and listen to their conversations in break-out rooms or small group meetings.
  • Use discussion and participation strategies to increase engagement during whole group conversations in remote or hybrid learning spaces. I set expectations that all students have time to think about a problem on their own and to share their thinking and solutions with a partner or in a small group.
    • Teachers can ask students to comment in Chat or on the microphone about other students’ thinking using a few different Talk Moves:
      • Repeat: Ask students to repeat or rephrase how another student thought about a problem. Examples: How did Group A solve 15 x 12? How did Group 1 explain know that 3/8 was less than 1/2?
      • Add On: Ask students to add on more solutions to what has already been shared. Examples: Who can share another solution for x? What are some other factors for 24?
      • Reasoning: Students share whether they agree or disagree with another student’s thinking and share their reasoning for their decision. Example: Do you agree or disagree with Chris’ thinking? Why?
    • Teachers can create participation roles for students to help them with being active in whole group conversations online. Students who need more support with participating can indicate how they would like to engage in the conversation.
      • To respond to questions or another students’ thinking, students can put ‘R’ in chat.
      • To ask questions, students can put ‘Q’ in chat.
      • To comment on another strategy or solution, students can put ‘C’ in chat.

It’s important that students have math tasks that have multiple approaches or solutions to engage them in rich mathematical conversations. The perfect equation is an open-ended math task and dynamic strategies to get students to share their thinking and reasoning.

Math Talk + Math Task = Math Thinking

“When we ask good questions in math class, we invite our students to think, to understand, and to share a mathematical journey with their classmates and teachers alike,” said Dr. Nancy Anderson.


Chapin, Suzanne H., Catherine O’Connor, and Nancy Canavan Anderson. Talk Moves: A Teacher’s Guide for Using Classroom Discussions in Math, Grades K-6. Sausalito, CA, Math Solutions, 2013.

Chapin, Suzanne H., Catherine O’Connor, and Nancy Canavan Anderson. Classroom Discussions: Using math talk to help students learn, Grades K-6, 2nd edition. Sausalito, CA, Math Solutions, 2009.

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