We’re trying to change classrooms so that children’s ideas and their experiences are at the heart of what teachers do.

Elham Kazemi

Participating in rich mathematical discussions is a powerful way to invite elementary students into the discipline of mathematics and build an expansive view of mathematics and its usefulness in making sense of and acting in the world.

During the 2019 annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, University of Washington College of Education teacher educators shared their work to support pre-service elementary teachers in leading equitable mathematics discussions during the session “Teacher Learning to Position Students as Capable in Class Discussions.”

Elham Kazemi, Geda and Phil Condit Professor in Math and Science Education, and doctoral student Elzena McVicar discussed what they’ve learned through their work in the UW’s Elementary Teacher Education Program.

“We’re trying to change classrooms so that children’s ideas and their experiences are at the heart of what teachers do,” Kazemi said, “so teaching mathematics is not about pouring information and pouring knowledge into kids’ heads but appreciating that they bring a lot of ideas to the classroom.”

This shift requires that teachers learn how to work with children in a different manner and orchestrate productive conversations about mathematics.

McVicar noted that pre-service teachers and teacher educators at the UW work together in planning and thinking about what students might want to say or have ideas about around an instructional activity, rehearsing with peers, enacting with students and then reflecting and refining.

“After we teach together, we go back and debrief, where we actually get to reflect and say ‘What happened? What did students say? What are the questions we could have said in the moment?’ and then we start the whole process over again,” McVicar said.

“Our goal is to really position kids as capable, so being together in these spaces also helps us be critical about our expectations of kids and challenge ideas that we might have about who’s capable,” Kazemi said.


Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications
206-543-1035, dwunder@uw.edu