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The Teacher Tip

Ask More Questions Instead of Giving Answers

March 6, 2018

Adapted from Thinking Together by Rozlynn Dance & Tessa Kaplan. 

We teach our students that when someone asks us for help, we must act as a math “coach,” asking questions when someone is stuck or struggling instead of giving answers. As a class, we brainstorm questions we could ask or things we could do to help our partner without “robbing” them of their thinking. We chart the students’ suggestions and refer back to them often. We add to the chart throughout the year when we hear effective partner or group discussions. 



  • Both partners looking at the paper
  • Partners sitting side by side
  • Tracking the work with your finger or a pencil, so your partner can follow along
  • Sharing the tools
  • “How did you get that as your answer?”
  • “I respectfully disagree because ____.”
  • “Maybe you can count again to double-check.”
  • “What other strategy could you use?”

  • We practice these routines repeatedly in the beginning of the year by having partnerships or groups work on a short task together and then bringing the whole class together to reflect briefly on how it went. 

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