Communication Standard


Facility in math is recognized by educators as being key to later success in life. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) has set ten content standards for the teaching and learning of mathematics from prekindergarten through twelfth grade.

            The standards in this series refer to the entire range of grades. Examples, however, are for prekindergarten to second grade, which includes the grade I teach.

            The NCTM publication Principles and Standards for School Mathematics has complete explanations of these. For more information, you may visit NCTM at

            Bullet points are quotations from the publication. Underneath them are my suggestions for parents.

Math principles and standards, part 8

Communication Standard

            The instructional programs should enable all students to:

  • Organize and consolidate their mathematical thinking through communication;
  • Communicate their mathematical thinking coherently and clearly to peers, teachers, and others;
  • Analyze and evaluate the mathematical thinking and strategies of others;
  • Use the language of mathematics to express mathematics ideas precisely.

            This standard highly supports the use of language to express math concepts. It is through the language that children explain their thoughts. They can do this verbally, written (with drawings or words), and by listening.

            Children will be able to express themselves verbally to the degree that adults around them have shown them how to communicate in similar circumstances. We understand that language facility is a precursor to being able to read. It is just as important and necessary in learning mathematics.

            Parents are in an excellent position to talk one-to-one or with just a few children about the way that they came up with mathematical answers. By doing this, children can clarify their own thinking.

            In the event that the family speaks another language than English at home, it would be beneficial to children to have these concepts explained in both the home language and, if parents understand it, in English as well.

            Parents raised in other cultures should also be aware of an approach taken in school that may not reflect the home culture: asking a question in which the answer is known by the questioner. Since this is a common technique for teachers to find out how children are thinking mathematically, it would be useful for parents to use a similar technique in family situations.

This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children Well: A Teacherís  Advice for Parents.

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