Creating a learning environment that encourages mathematical thinking

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There is wide interest in effective teachers of mathematics and much has been written about features of their practice. The present study sought to describe in depth ways in which highly effective teachers of mathematics with young children build communities of learners and encourage classroom interactions which stimulate mathematical thinking. One finding in particular, that had not previously been documented in the literature was the interlinked conversational exchanges between teacher and child in mathematics lessons in the early years of primary school. These “strings” of conversational interactions support, extend, and challenge, children’s thinking. The one-to-one interactions between teacher and child that were the focus of the large study proved to be a revelation. The mathematical conversations that teachers had with children as a regular part of their classroom practice during their mathematics lessons challenged young children to reflect on their mathematical thinking. Leaps of thinking took place as teachers elicited children’s mathematical knowledge and supported children’s construction of new thinking. Classroom vignettes are used to illustrate events where the environment and the task set the context for some remarkable mathematical thinking by young children. Based on the findings of the study three recommendations are made for teachers:
• Plan time for close mathematical conversations with children;
• Expect thinking of children including conjecturing, reasoning, justifying; and
• Consider tasks and their potential to engage and extend children’s thinking.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEvidence-Based Learning and Teaching
Subtitle of host publicationA Look into Australian Classrooms
EditorsMelissa Barnes, Maria Gindidis, Sivanes Phillipson
Place of PublicationAbingdon UK
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781351129367
ISBN (Print)9780815355717, 9780815355700
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2018


  • Effective mathematics teaching, listening, questioning, mathematical conversations

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