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5.1.3 Communication among Students

Math Content:

Shows how activities like this allow students to use communication as a tool to deepen their understanding of mathematics, as described in the Communication Standard.

Refer to the Explorations tab for video.
Refer to the Explorations tab for video.

 ----- Transcript Begins ------
Girl 1:  So we need to get two-fourths to get a whole, but we need to get, um, this is actually here.
Boy 1:  Five-fifths, five-sixths, next card.
Boy 1:  Three-sixths.
Girl 1:  Three-sixths.
Narrator:  One of the benefits to having students share their strategies and having students work together is they bring things to their own language, they expand upon the ideas with their examples, and they question and challenge each other in a different way so they can get to a truer meaning of the math.
Boy 1:  Wait,  are we moving? 
Girl 1:  We're moving.
Boy 1:  We're done.
Boy 1:  Wait, we can't move thirds because we already did it. 
Girl 1:  I got three-fourths.
Boy 1:  Oh, yeah.  Okay.
------ Transcript Ends   -----

The video clip below shows a pair of students working together to determine the next move in the Fraction Tracks game. Watch this clip and find instances in which the students seem to be exploring a mathematical idea. Does the communication between the students seem to play a role in their mathematics learning?


In grades 3–5 students' abilities to learn from, and work with, others should expand. They should become more skilled in speaking to one another and in convincing or question their peers. The discourse should focus on making sense of mathematical ideas and on using mathematical ideas effectively in modeling and solving problems. When thinking is discussed regularly in the classroom, students feel comfortable describing their thinking, even if their ideas are different from the ideas of their peers. Discourse is not a goal in itself; rather, the value of mathematical discussions should be judged by whether students are learning important mathematics as they participate in them.

Take Time to Reflect

  • What is the quality of the interactions between the students in this video clip? Is their communication effective?
  • Is there evidence that the students are listening to each other?
  • What are the main mathematical ideas?
  • How can a teacher encourage students in grades 3–5 to speak and write about their mathematical conjectures, questions, and solutions?

Video Credit 

WGBH, Boston. "Fraction Tracks." In Teaching Math: A Video Library, 5–8. Funded and distributed by the Annenberg/CPB Math and Science Project, P.O. Box 2345, S. Burlington, VT 05407-2345, 1-800-LEARNER.