Mathematically Accountable Talk

Excerpts from an article by Lauren Resnick

(Math 3325 Principles of Math, Spring 2002, Dr. Duval)

Making America Smarter: A Century's Assumptions About Innate Ability Give Way to a Belief in the Power of Effort
Resnick, Lauren B. (1999, June 16). Education Week, 38-40.
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Effort-Based Education and Learnable Intelligence: Principles for Teaching and Learning
For several years, the Institute for Learning at the University of Pittsburgh has been working with school systems across the country to set students -- and whole school faculties -- on the upward, getting-smarter spiral. A core set of principles guides this work, principles that educators have found both inspiring and practical. These principles, which can be illustrated in multiple examples of specific school and classroom practice, are based on cognitive research and research on learning organizations. Here they are in a nutshell:
Accountable Talk.
Talking with others about ideas and work is fundamental to learning. But not all talk sustains learning or creates intelligence. For classroom talk to promote learning, it must have certain characteristics that make it accountable. Accountable talk seriously responds to and further develops what others in the group have said. It puts forth and demands knowledge that is accurate and relevant to the issue under discussion. Accountable talk uses evidence in ways appropriate to the discipline (for example, proofs in mathematics, data from investigations in science, textual details in literature, documentary sources in history). Finally, it follows established norms of good reasoning. Accountable talk sharpens students' thinking by reinforcing their ability to use knowledge appropriately. As such, it helps develop the skills and habits of mind that constitute intelligence-in-practice. Teachers can intentionally create the norms and skills of accountable talk in their classrooms.
Socializing Intelligence.
Intelligent habits of mind are learned through the daily expectations placed on the learner. By calling on students to use the skills of intelligent thinking and accountable talk, and by holding them responsible for doing so, educators can "teach" intelligence. This is what teachers normally do with students they expect much from; it should be standard practice with all students.