BerkswichCE Primary School

Achieve, Believe and Care

Translate Translate

Maths Dialogue (the power of maths-talk)

We Value Mathematical Dialogue


"The ability to communicate lies at the heart of reasoning."

Why is mathematical dialogue important?
Research shows that verbal ability is linked to overall ability and confidence in maths (Nunes et al.). Dialogue, as part of the reasoning experience, brings with it the potential for richer learning and avoidance of: ‘fragile learning’ (Maclellan), ‘fragments of knowledge (Keiren), or ‘ritualistic acts of knowledge reproduction’ (Boaler and Greeno) which can result from a more procedural approach.
What are we aiming for?
We strive to develop brave and eager mathematicians who possess the tools to think mathematically. In order to do this, we work hard to develop each child's ability to use dialogue to help them to:
  • support each other (and in doing so, develop their own understanding too)
  • seek more information, examples, clarification, etc., to understand for themselves
  • question their maths so that misconceptions can be tackled
  • prove their thinking to enable them to refine their ideas, spot mistakes and refine their methods further
  • be curious and ask questions like, "What if..." and spot connections and link ideas
  • be flexible and willing to adapt ideas and approaches in the light of new thinking and knowledge


The power of thinking and not giving up


Underpinning these aims is for children to actively participate in thinking - get involved! In so doing, the children can be persistent in their thinking, using all of the above strategies to reason, problem-solve, check their outcomes and become more efficient mathematicians.


Mathematical Dialogue Stems


According to Dawes, prompts increase a child's repertoire of spoke language; they are a powerful tool to support engagement with their own understanding and encourage deep learning. Therefore, children have progressive prompts developed by teachers as part of their professional development (shown on this page and available through the documents at the bottom). These are used in phases (Y1/2, Y3/4 and Y5/6) and help the children to go beyond basic discussions,  to using mathematical dialogue as the catalyst for vastly improved reasoning (Askew). 


Rich opportunities
Children approach maths with a deep or a surface approach (Dawes). Deep happens when a child is motivated with a task that is interesting and meaningful to them. To develop dialogue and support a child's internal mathematical dialogue, we choose tasks which invite children to make decisions or develop ideas through meaningful problems that connect with existing knowledge and sufficient challenge to ensure the need for new knowledge to be developed.
An agreed approach
Each class has developed their own code of conduct to ensure that maths confidence is supported and children keep learning to be open to new ideas and thinking - brave, eager persistence!
Please click on the files below to view our progressive approach and resources.