#14. Revoicing: A means of advancing a mathematical discussion

Posted on September 16th, 2014

From the Institute for Learning, this is Victoria Bill.

In previous podcasts, I talked about the importance of mathematical reasoning and the use of precise language.

Teachers play a critical role in eliciting from students mathematical reasoning and precise language related to mathematical reasoning. Revoicing is a powerful instructional move. It is a means of apprenticing students in the use of more precise language, but it is also a means of advancing the mathematical discussion in the classroom.

As students explore and make sense of mathematical ideas, their discussions often lack clarity. It is for this reason that teachers need to master the art of "revoicing." Revoicing is a teacher statement that aligns a student's contribution with a new mathematical idea needed in the lesson to advance the conversation. When students share an idea, the teacher must figure out the kernel idea of the students' contribution that can be aligned with the intended mathematical content of the lesson and then use this information to further the mathematics in the lesson. This must be done in a way in which students still recognize their contributions, and are able to draw connections between their contributions and the teacher's revoicing of the contribution. Let's listen to an example:

A student says, "I see 4 and 4 and 4 and 4 and 4 and this is 20." The teacher says, "You said 4, 5 times," and then she writes 4 x 5. "Is this what you said?"

In this example, the student's contribution remains intact; however, the teacher has advanced the mathematics in the lesson by using the student's 4s and noting how many times the 4s are said by the student. The teacher draws a parallel between the student's use of repeated addition and the related multiplication expression, 4 x 5.

Let's listen to a second example.

A student says, "The ratio boys to girls is 4/8 or 1/2. There are twice as many girls." The teacher recognizes the imprecise way of talking about the ratio and says, "You said the ratio boys to girls is 4 to 8, or for every 1 boy there are 2 girls. This is a part-to-part ratio so I would say 4 to 8 instead of 4/8.

In this example, the student refers to the ratio boys to girls; however, the student talks about the ratio as a part-to-whole relationship by naming it as a fraction, 4/8. By revoicing the student's contribution, the teacher is distinguishing between a part-to-part ratio and the student's previous work with fractions, thinking about it as a part-to-whole.

Try it out! Try to use the talk move of revoicing, and take note of the way students make connections between their ideas and the mathematical ideas that you have inserted via the use of revoicing.

Victoria Bill

Victoria Bill is the Chair of the Institute for Learning's mathematics Disciplinary Literacy Team.

More information on Victoria Bill.