Making a Point

Our school uses a 5-period, trimester schedule which means that every 13 weeks, I have a new group of angels in my classroom.  I decided to give Talking Points another try, with the goal of incorporating some exploratory talk related to the topics in our units of study.  Additionally, the practice of “no comment” has proven to be undeniably helpful in encouraging students to listen to one another.  [Note:  Elizabeth Statmore introduced these at Twitter Math Camp this summer.  See the “Talking Points” link for more information.]

My goal is the same:  Addressing status in my math classroom and allowing every kid to have a voice. I began with the math talking points and then transitioned into some talking points related to our current unit: Numbers and Operations.  (I’d love to have the students come up with their own talking points as well, although I haven’t tried that yet.)

In their self-assessment, I asked them how difficult it was to practice “no comment” and was quite pleased with some of their responses.  In particular, the student that explicitly stated that he failed in refraining from commenting.  It was an excellent opportunity to encourage them to be better the second time around.

Something awesome that I noticed today:  students respectfully called each other out on cross-talking violations.

Here are the talking points we used today:

Talking Points – Number and Operations

  • The sum of two fractions always results in another fraction.
  • There are an infinite number of fractions between any two fractions.
  • Using a fraction is always a more precise answer than using a decimal.
  • The commutative law of addition (a + b) + c = a + (b + c) only works for positive numbers.
  • For the fraction -x/y, it does not matter if x is negative or y is negative as long as one of them is.
  • The reciprocal of a number is usually smaller than the original number.
  • The square root of a number is always less than or equal to the original number.
  • Zero is neither even nor odd.
  • Taking a positive whole number to a power always results in a larger number.

When having them assess themselves the second time around, many commented that it was much more difficult not to comment immediately.  Although some of the points are intentionally ambiguous, a number of them have right and wrong answers.  Conversely, the topics yesterday were more general “math opinion” related bullets.  Fortunately, when listening to their conversations, I found that many who struggled yesterday improved on today’s task.

I’m encouraged by my take on this activity this trimester.  I think that centering the statements around our units will be helpful in examining mathematical statements that make students think critically and support their decisions.


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