Helping students articulate their mathematical thinking through game play with others.

by Allison Riddle

Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8


One thing I’ve learned first-hand in my classroom: game play is a great way to encourage students to express and articulate themselves mathematically.

Helping students to articulate themselves in this way is particularly important because—in conjunction with shifting state standards—teachers everywhere are being asked to move students from concepts and procedural memorization to a real focus of understanding and reasoning.

Together, these practices help me to see the degree to which my students have a deeper understanding of mathematics—an understanding they’re demonstrating because they’re enthusiastically communicating their ideas with others.


What I did well…

In my lesson I felt I gave clear expectations for the activity and the need for each student to articulate their thinking with the other students on their teams. This clear explanation and modeling of the structure of the game helped all of my students understand and actively engage. I was able to use proximity to manage the groups and have critical conversations about their progress during the game. I was pleased with how I had grouped the students with like abilities, and then I was able to differentiate the game to offer a greater challenge to those groups who had a deep understanding of the original structure.

What I would do more of or differently…

I really should have offered a more interesting anticipatory set for this activity rather than just explaining what we would do. In the time constraints, I am sure I was trying to give as much time as possible to the groups to experience the game, but I truly should have included the students in a quick warm up energizer before we began. I would also want to have them begin by sharing a quick personal analysis of something unrelated to help spark the idea of articulating your thinking in the anticipatory set.

I still want to grow this practice by….

I would like to include analysis questions and sharing of answers within, not only mathematical games and lessons, but also within my history and language arts lessons. The transfer of articulation of thought would be very powerful for every subject I teach. Students will become more flexible with this skill as they experience it in a variety of settings.

About Allison Riddle

Allison Riddle has been an elementary educator in Northern Utah for the past 29 years. She is currently the Elementary Mentor Supervisor for Davis ...

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