**A ****Mathematical ‘Learning Conversation’ challenges students ****to explain and justify their thinking in mathematics.**

A Learning Conversation in Mathematics refers to authentic, enquiry-based talk about the mathematical thinking of students. In learning conversations students may “demonstrate, model, explain, calculate, justify, generalise, transfer, connect and describe their mathematical thinking.” ^{(1)}

It is best exemplified when students and teachers are engaged in the process of problem solving in Maths. Generally, the more open-ended the Mathematical problem, the more likely that a genuine Learning Conversation will develop. Providing open-ended learning experiences has the added benefit of enabling teachers to engage each child over a period of time. However, the main intention of doing so is to involve the child in mathematical learning conversations in order to articulate their own thinking ^{(2)}.

The teacher can initiate the conversation with an essential question or interpretive prompt, such as:

*“**Why do you think that?”*

*“How did you understand how to solve that?”*

*“Explain the strateg**y you used to get to this point.”*

*“Can you draw/represent the way in which you worked on that problem?***”**

*“Tell me how you solved that problem.”*

*“What steps do you take to get to this point?”*

Sometimes the conversation is initiated by a student asking a question, or making a comment. Learning Conversations can be between one student and teacher, a teacher and several students, or just several students talking in a group.

The ensuing “talk pattern” is conversational – the teacher (or other students) ask some questions or may prompt for more information, but the questions she or he asks are a genuine response to what students are saying. Ideally students exchange ideas, information and perspectives between themselves.

On balance, *the teacher does more listening than talking.*

During the conversation, the teacher may step in to facilitate and scaffold the conversation, but it is the students who develop the conversation ^{(3)}.

The conversation typically closes with summarising, drawing conclusions, making connections, establishing goals for the next step in mathematics learning, or by assisting students to do this.

References:

(1) Cheeseman, Jill (2009), ‘Challenging Mathematical Conversations’. Mathematics Education Research Group of Australasia (MERGA). Sessional conference paper, 2009 MERGA Conference.

(2) Southey, Sue (2014), ‘Mathematical Conversations: Teaching Mathematics in Kindergarten’. Educating Young Children: Learning and Teaching in the Early Childhood Years, Vol.20, No.3, 2014. Early Childhood Teachers Association of Queensland: Brisbane, QLD.

(3) Adapted from Ontario Ministry of Education (2011), ‘Grand Conversations in Primary Classrooms’, Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, Capacity Building Series Special Edition No.18, April 2011. Ontario: Canada.

Further Reading:

Ritchard, Church and Morrison (2011), ‘Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding and Independence for All Learners’. Jossey Bass: San Francisco, CA, USA.