Math practices to improve student outcomes

A look inside a 21st-century math classroom
By: | Issue: April, 2019 | Thought Leadership
March 29, 2019
Grace Kelemanik (left) and Amy Lucenta (right), authors of Routines for Reasoning and the new Curriculum Associates’ Ready Classroom Mathematics K-5 program.

Grace Kelemanik (left) and Amy Lucenta (right), authors of Routines for Reasoning and the new Curriculum Associates’ Ready Classroom Mathematics K-5 program.

Q&A with Grace Kelemanik (top) and Amy Lucenta (bottom), authors of Routines for Reasoning and the new Curriculum Associates’ Ready Classroom Mathematics K-5 program

What should a 21st-century math classroom look like?

Grace Kelemanik: It’s where kids do the bulk of the talking and thinking. Students need to develop deep mathematical understanding and practices. For this to happen, teachers need to create experiences that give kids a steady diet of tasks and opportunities to work together, to make sense of the mathematics and to solve problems together.

Amy Lucenta: The focus is on preparing students for thinking and reasoning, but certain structures will enable this. For example, they need specific instructional routines to support student-to-student engagement, conversation and mathematical discourse.

How can teachers facilitate productive mathematical discussions?

Grace Kelemanik: Students have to develop an interest in each other’s ideas, and then work to make sense of the ideas, wrestle with them and make them better. Teachers can provide kids with private or individual think time before having conversations with classmates, or allow kids to look at and make sense of work before responding to questions or beginning a conversation to dig deeper.

Amy Lucenta: We need time to think and process before starting a conversation. That’s an important component of discourse in the math classroom. Another way to facilitate discussion is through “turn and talk,” where students process an idea with a partner. Together, they’re able to process mathematical ideas and mathematical language, refine their thinking, and be better prepared for a full group discussion.

How can teachers balance having the right amount of productive struggle and the ability to improve learning?

Grace Kelemanik: When kids get stuck, teachers often try to help them by offering a suggestion or asking a leading question that inadvertently takes over the students’ thinking. If kids are stuck on something that’s not the main mathematical goal, teachers should redirect them so they can begin thinking about mathematics. But in most instances, teachers are listening to partner conversations and not correcting student thinking at this time.

Amy Lucenta: Paying attention to student thinking—written or verbal—is key and so is deciding which question is right for which moment. When kids become unproductive, you need to help them without taking over their thinking and telling them the next step.

How can administrators evaluate math programs to ensure they’re encouraging these habits and discourse?

Amy Lucenta: Look for a program that gives the teacher support to facilitate the discourse, and then see if there are opportunities for students to process ideas, individually and with a partner, and that gives repeatable prompts for discourse. A program rich with mathematical discourse provides a specific prompt or question for students to discuss, and something that causes them to think and talk.

Grace Kelemanik: Programs with instructional routines where kids talk with each other about their ideas develop discourse. But supports must be integrated for students to create a habit of interacting around mathematical ideas.

For more information on the new Ready Classroom Mathematics
program, please visit ReadyClassroomMathematics.com