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How to Start A Math Fight: Round 4 - How to build productive math discussion and discourse into your daily routine.

By Jon Orr posted 04-15-2019 20:49


Welcome to the final round of this 4-part post series on how to build productive math discussions into your daily routine.

In the first 3 rounds of this post series I shared how to use specific resources found on the web to create math discussions in your classroom. More specifically, the first three posts show you how to

  • Create a moment of out-loud thinking (Round 1)
  • Create a moment of controversy. (Round 2 and Round 3)
  • Create a moment of Wonder. (Round 4)

In this final post I’ll focus less on how to create arguments or math fights and more on a resource that helps create moments of wonder in your classroom and at home with your own children using the website

Let me fill you first on the title of the website Math Before Bed.

You see, the benefits of reading stories to our children at nighttime have been shared countless times over, and for good reason. Reading improves literacy skills.

Why is it that we don’t do math with our children before bed?

Math Before Bed is a collection of prompts that can inspire mathematical discussions that you and your children and/or students can have before bed, at dinner, in the classroom or anytime.

Each prompt on this site shows a perplexing problem. Sometimes there is one right answer and sometimes there are many right answers. The purpose of each question is to generate a discussion about HOW you determined an answer. If you and your students find one answer, try to find another. You could have students complete one prompt a night, or many prompts.

For example, you show this prompt:


Read the prompt out loud and let the children think. They may say 20. Ask them to describe how they counted them. The child may say:

  •  “I counted each star up starting at 1, 2,3,….up to 20.”  OR they may say,
  •  “I saw that two stars were in each circle, so I counted by 2s (or I skip counted) 2,4,6, up to 20″. Or they may say,
  •  “I saw each column is 4 stars so counted up by 4s”. OR they may say,
  •  “I saw two rows of 10 in each row. 10 + 10 is 20”. OR they may say
  •  “There are 5 columns of 4 so 5 times 4 is 20.”

How to extend the moments of wonder:

In a one on one setting, when a child tells you how they counted ask: “Another child counted them a different way. Can you see which way they counted?” This will prompt the child to see those other groupings. They will start to make connections between adding, and multiplying. Did they count they same way you did? Share YOUR strategy with your child. You can extend the problem after too. Ask them “If we added two more circles, how many stars would be there now?”

As an example, watch/listen here while two seven year-olds talk their way through this patterning problem.

Here is another prompt that can help create moments of wonder and discussion in your classroom or at home.


Find more at

You can download a How To Start A Math Fight Placemat to keep track of your learning in this 4 post series and the How To Start A Math Fight Quick Start GuideClick here to get the placemat and guide all in one.


You can find more from Jon Orr at



Twitter: @Mrorr_Geek




08-22-2019 16:32

Thank you for posting all of these wonderful ideas. I love listening to your podcast!

05-03-2019 16:24

I love the idea of having middle school students debate and defend a mathematical idea. Middle shooters are at a controversial stage, and will form opinions on just about anything they are given the opportunity to. I really enjoy this!