Maths talk in the classroom
There is no easy way around learning the language of maths because this demands intelligent effort where a pupil will learn what words and symbols mean in different contexts.
To learn, improve, and truly use the language of maths, we need to speak, which is why maths discussions and debate are so important. Children have to be verbally active in every lesson and using the target language. They can think in maths but they have to verbalise it too which is why we need to constantly engage children in purposeful maths talk.
Learning a language is exciting, but it can also be daunting.
In fact, a fear of maths isn’t just related to whether you can add up, recall your times tables or work out a percentage discount, it is also connected to the power of language and the art of stumbling. If children don’t take risks and use maths speak then they can clam up and feelings of insecurity and shyness can creep in and hinder concept development. Just as we might find it difficult to give things a go and speak French, Spanish or German, the same applies to maths.
The more children speak maths, the quicker they will improve and part of that is making plenty of mistakes. This is why a culture of mistake-making is crucial in a mastery classroom because it normalises mistakes as learning curves. Silent periods in maths are necessary but talking maths should occupy the bulk of our time when learning.
Some children will happily chat away in maths lessons but they can be resistant to using maths words and need to be encouraged. The only way to be fluent is to engage in maths conversations.
As ‘The State of Speaking in Our Schools’ report from Will Millard and Loic Menzies argues, talk is “the most powerful tool of communication in the classroom and it is fundamentally central to the acts of teaching and learning”.