Oracy, dialogic teaching and maths mastery

|7 min read

Classrooms should be places where children can express thoughts and ideas, engage in conversation and learn to be effective communicators. In other words, they should be in environments that support oracy.

Oracy refers to the ability to express ourselves fluently and effectively through spoken language. It encompasses the skills of speaking and listening, as well as the ability to communicate ideas, opinions and emotions clearly and confidently in a range of contexts.

Oracy involves not only the verbal expression of thoughts and ideas but also active listening, comprehension and interpretation of spoken language. It plays a crucial role in communication, interpersonal relationships and academic success, serving as a foundation for effective communication in both personal and professional settings. Oracy skills are essential for engaging in discussions, participating in collaborative activities, presenting information and understanding and interpreting spoken messages in everyday life.

The Maths — No Problem! approach, based on both research and pedagogical theory, supports not only rich communication but critical thinking, collaboration and a deep understanding of key mathematical ideas. In this blog, we will be looking at the role of oracy, its relationship to dialogic teaching and how understanding these areas supports the principles and theories that underpin a mastery approach to teaching.

What is dialogic teaching? At its core, dialogic teaching places conversation and discussion at the forefront of the learning process. It creates dynamic learning environments where pupils actively participate in constructing meaning, making connections between concepts and collaboratively building knowledge.

This approach seamlessly aligns with the Maths — No Problem! core competencies:

  • Communication
  • Visualisation
  • Generalisation
  • Metacognition
  • Number sense


Dialogic teaching nurtures effective communication skills by encouraging pupils to express their ideas articulately, question and discuss concepts critically, evaluate problem-solving approaches and engage in meaningful dialogue with their peers.

“I think Ravi swam 23m on Tuesday.”

“I think he swam further than 23m on Tuesday.”

“I think he swam 23m further on Tuesday than on Monday.”

“So do we have to add 23m to 35m to find out how far he swam on Tuesday?”

“Does that mean we need to add 23 and 35 then add the total to 35?”

Pupil points at bar models within classroom


Engaging in dialogue allows pupils to explore mathematical concepts and visualise representations, leading to a deeper understanding and mastery of these ideas. Describing the mental imagery they conjure in their mind’s eye can further enhance their visualisation skills.

“I think we need to draw a single bar.”

“I think we need to draw 2 bars. One for Monday, one for Tuesday.”

“The bar for Tuesday will need to be longer as he swam 23m further.”

“The bar for Tuesday isn’t quite twice as long as the bar for Monday.”

“The example in the book is like what I described.”


By fostering exploration, critical thinking, peer learning, feedback and reflection, a dialogic approach empowers pupils to generalise their understanding of mathematical concepts. Through meaningful dialogue, pupils develop the skills necessary to identify patterns, recognise underlying principles and apply their knowledge to new real-world situations.

“This problem is similar to the problem in the explore task.”

“More flour is used on Saturday than Sunday.”

“We could draw a similar bar model to the one we used for the explore task.”

“We need to take away a bit of the bar as they use 12g less on Sunday than on Saturday.”


Dialogic teaching provides opportunities for pupils to reflect on their learning processes, monitor and regulate their learning and engage in feedback and self-reflection. Teachers employing a dialogic approach actively support the development of metacognition, guiding pupils to become more aware of their thinking processes, allowing them to develop their identity as learners and equipping them with the skills to navigate challenges effectively.

Number Sense

A dialogic approach nurtures pupils' number sense by promoting exploration, questioning and inquiry, making connections, comparing and contrasting, justification and reasoning, peer collaboration and feedback and reflection. Through meaningful dialogue about numbers and mathematical concepts, pupils develop a profound understanding of numerical relationships, laying the groundwork for mathematical fluency and problem-solving ability.

“I am going to take 20cm from 38cm.”

“I know I’ve taken 1cm too many so the answer will be 19cm.”

“I know that double 19 is 38, so 38 - 19 will be 19.”

“The height of the box of rulers is 19cm.”

Developing oracy in our classrooms

Through exploration of mathematical concepts in our classrooms, pupils engage in rich discussions about mathematical concepts. They're encouraged to share their thoughts on numbers, patterns and relationships without worrying about whether they are right or wrong.

Through these conversations, pupils not only articulate their ideas but also actively listen to their peers' ideas. By exploring different parts of the lesson together, they start recognising patterns and connections between key mathematical ideas, helping them see the bigger picture.

Questioning and Inquiry

Questioning is a skill we practise and model but one that is also developed by the pupils. We encourage pupils through our prompts to start to ask questions of themselves. For example, “Why would I use this method with this problem?” or “This problem is similar to yesterday’s. I wonder if the approach we used yesterday can help us today?”

We encourage our pupils to not just accept answers or solutions, we expect them to dig deeper into a problem and consider their approaches, justify and reason. Through this process of inquiry, pupils develop problem-solving skills that are fundamental to mathematical learning.

Making Connections in our classrooms

Numbers aren't just abstract symbols; they're part of our everyday lives. We contextualise mathematical concepts within real-world scenarios, encouraging pupils to explore how they encounter numbers outside of school.

By making these connections, pupils see the relevance of mathematics in their daily experiences, supporting pupils to see the world mathematically and to respond mathematically.

Comparing and contrasting

There’s an expectation in our classroom that we always compare and contrast different strategies for solving problems. We expect our children to say, “I tried this method, but it didn't work. Let's see if we can find a better way,” or “I have found one way of solving this problem but I know there is another way.”

Through these discussions, they learn to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, developing their problem-solving skills in the process.

Justification and Reasoning

We should expect that students don't just give answers; they explain how they arrived at them. This means that the success criteria for our lessons is not just being accurate with our answers but being able to justify their reasoning and to provide evidence to support the answer they have arrived at.

This practice not only enhances their understanding but also strengthens their ability to communicate mathematical ideas clearly and effectively.

Peer Collaboration

We want our classrooms to be rich in collaboration. It should be the norm that students work together, sharing ideas, and supporting each other's learning. Through these collaborations, they learn to appreciate different perspectives and approaches, broadening their understanding of mathematics in the process. But pupils also develop the language associated with that mathematical idea.

It should also be a space in which people feel safe to collaborate and where their ideas are valued and considered.

Feedback and Reflection

Sending and receiving feedback is seen as an opportunity for growth. Students receive feedback not only from their teacher but also from their peers. They reflect on this feedback, considering how they can improve their understanding and skills.

This reflective process helps them become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses, empowering them to take ownership of their learning journey. Our classrooms should be vibrant spaces where children feel empowered to express themselves, engage in meaningful dialogue and develop effective communication skills.

By prioritising oracy and integrating dialogic teaching practices, we create learning environments that nurture pupils' overall development, fostering critical thinking, collaboration, and a deep understanding of key mathematical concepts. Through this holistic approach to education, pupils not only become proficient mathematicians but also confident communicators, critical thinkers, and lifelong learners.