Math Talk Moves: Driving Conversation

Alright! You’ve got a great discussion task or engaging problem and you’ve thought about how your students may respond. So what’s next? Much like a coach has a set group of plays to put into action when his/her opponent makes a certain move, there are some essential math talk moves to make during classroom discussions. Today’s post is the third post in my Let’s Talk series. It’s all about making the right moves during math talk to help students gain the most from the discussion. This post even includes a math talk moves classroom poster. Be sure to grab it! Missed the first two posts? Read post 1 here and post 2 here.

This is the blog title- Driving the Conversation with Math Talk Moves

In most of our standards, there are items related to teaching students how to communicate effectively with one another. Well, it’s not just in Language Arts. We have to teach students how to communicate effectively in mathematics too. Understanding the math talk moves helps to guide both students and teachers during a discussion. Modeling and using the moves during math talk will not only help students become better communicators but stronger math students as well.

Math Talk Moves

The authors of Intentional Talk share seven essential moves. Each move is detailed below.

A. Revoicing: Repeating a students’ words and asking the student to verify that his/her thoughts were revoiced correctly can be used to clarify or emphasize an idea. Over time, as students hear and see revoicing used in the classroom, they will begin to identify the most important elements of a conversation and select key points to remember.

B. Repeating: Different than revoicing, students use this move to repeat or rephrase another student’s comment. This move helps to reiterate important ideas and can be used to slow down the conversation for processing time.

C. Reasoning: Asking students to compare their reasoning to another student’s reasoning is where the real magic happens because students have to analyze the other student’s reasoning before making the comparison. This provides an opportunity to do a deep dive into student understanding while students reflect on, analyze, and make sense of the thinking of others. This move also provides an opportunity for students to learn to disagree respectfully.

D. Adding On: Building on another students’ thinking or reasoning is another important move. Like with the reasoning move, students have to make sense of another students’ comment in order to do this successfully. This move also engages students in the conversation. Consider a time when only a few students shared during a discussion. When you use this move, you ask, “Would someone like to add to his/her thinking?”

E. Wait Time: For many of us, me included, this is so hard. Silence is uncomfortable and feels unproductive, but sometimes silence helps students make sense of a discussion and decide which move to make next. Be sure to use this move when you first ask a question, as well as, when you call on a student so that he/she has time to collect his/her thoughts.

F. Turn-and-Talk: This move is not only a great strategy to give every student a chance to share his/her thinking and be heard but also a chance for you to listen in on student conversations to determine which students you want to highlight during the large group discussion. In addition, I would like to add that it is important to teach students how to respond during a turn-and-talk session. Do they just listen and that’s it, or do you want the students to practice revoicing, reasoning, or adding on? Turn-and-talk is a great way to practice these moves.

G. Revise: This is the pinnacle of classroom discussions! When students revise their own thinking based on the reasoning of someone else, you’ve got a great thing! For this move, students acknowledge their original thinking and articulate how and why it changed.

Grab a free copy of the Math Talk Moves poster below here!

This is a picture of a free Math Talk Moves poster.

Getting Started

It’s probably best to not overwhelm yourself by trying to use all of the moves at once. Try introducing them one-at-a-time or naturally in conversation. Also, be sure to highlight them when students use them. This will help them build the skill authentically and know when to use them in conversation. The ultimate goal of math talk is for students to build a deeper understanding of the content so allowing students to take charge of how and when to use the moves will help accomplish this goal.

Sound Off! How do you help your students use the math talk moves?

Respond in the comments section below.


Reference:  Kazemi, E. & Hintz, A. (2014). Intentional talk: How to structure and lead productive mathematical discussions. Stenhouse Publishers: Portland, Maine.

Shametria Routt Banks

Shametria Routt Banks

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