School-Based Intervention Idea from


Math Instruction: Maintain a Supportive Atmosphere for Classroom “Math Talk”  (Cooke & Adams, 1998)

Teachers can promote greater student ‘risk-taking’ in mathematics learning when they cultivate a positive classroom atmosphere for math discussions while preventing peers from putting each other down.

The teacher models behavioral expectations for open, interactive discussions, praises students for their class participation and creative attempts at problem-solving, and regularly points out that incorrect answers and misunderstandings should be celebrated—as they often lead to breakthroughs in learning. The teacher uses open-ended comments (e.g., “What led you to that answer?”) as tools to draw out students and encourage them to explore and apply math concepts in group discussion. Students are also encouraged in a supportive manner to evaluate each other’s reasoning. However, the teacher intervenes immediately to prevent negative student comments or ‘put-downs’ about peers. As with any problem classroom behavior, a first offense requires that the student meet privately with the instructor to discuss teacher expectations for positive classroom behavior. If the student continues to put down peers, the teacher imposes appropriate disciplinary consequences.


Cooke, L B. & Adams, V. M. (1998). Encouraging "math talk" in the classroom. Middle School Journal, 29(5), 35-40.

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