Project M²—Family Resources-Learning

What Your Child is Learning – Mathematical Communication and Problem Solving

One of the goals of Project M² is helping your child grow in his or her ability to communicate as a mathematician and in the process become a better problem solver.

What is mathematical communication? It is any situation in which a person is attempting to convey ideas, thoughts, questions, or conjectures about mathematics to others. This view of mathematical communication extends beyond talk, though classroom conversation is a central focus. People can communicate their mathematical thinking in spoken words and gestures, with physical models or technology, in pictures, in symbols, in written words, or in graphs, tables and other devices. All of these different forms of communications will be important as students explore and investigate mathematics.

Many students give up quickly when a math problem looks unfamiliar. However, students who have had practice in talking at length with their peers and teacher about solving mathematics problems tend to persist longer in trying to understand a new problem. As they get used to the process of explaining their thinking and revising their thinking in light of others’ comments, they come to understand that it takes time to think through a problem. They don’t give up as quickly. As the class becomes more practiced at communicating mathematically, students are motivated to organize, consolidate, and clarify their own thinking in order to be able to participate with their peers. Students learn to view problems from different perspectives and to appreciate a variety of thinking and problem solving styles as they listen to their peers’ methods of solving problems.


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