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NCETM - Working collaboratively to enhance mathematics teaching

Module for mathematics specialists in post 16 education and training

Session 2: Thinking about discussion

One of the key premises underlying the approaches in Improving Learning in Mathematics is that they actively encourage learners to talk about mathematics together. The concept of discussion in the mathematics classroom is contrary to many people's idea of what happens, based on their own experience at school. It is still relatively unusual today to find discussion in mathematics classrooms. This is partly because teachers have a variety of concerns and opinions about it. Here are some views that have been expressed by real teachers:

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Why is discussion rare in mathematics?

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Task: Do you agree with these views? Discuss with a colleague if you can, or go to the community discussion group and read other teachers' comments.

 

 
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Do you agree with the reasons given?

Please record your thoughts.

There is now an increasing body of evidence to suggest that discussing mathematics does help understanding and that learners benefit greatly. Many mathematics teachers say that they understood mathematics much better once they had to verbalise and explain it to others themselves - usually when they started teaching.

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Task: To see learners involved in discussion in the classroom, look at the following video, which eavesdrops on three different classrooms. If you are able to watch this video footage with a colleague, you can discuss it together afterwards.


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Clip 1: Learner learner discussion.

 

While you watch the video you might like to think about the following:

Record your observations.

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Now reflect on this activity

Please record your thoughts

For the next video clip think about the teacher's role during the learners' discussion:

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Clip 2: Talking about discussion.


 
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Now reflect on this activity

Please record your thoughts

If you would like to do more:

The first session that you saw on the video clip was in fact videoed in full. You can see four excerpts from it. You can also see the teacher talking about the context of the session beforehand and the teacher reflecting on it afterwards by going to:

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David's Session

If you would like to work with a group of colleagues on using discussion with mathematics learners there is a professional development session available in the Improving Learning in Mathematics resource:

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Managing Discussion