The Intersection of Counselling and Mathematics: Clarifying

I began an M.Ed. in counselling psychology a year ago. Besides being incredibly challenging — especially on nights when I have homework, but all I want to do is play with fraction talk images or geometric constructions, it has revealed to me just how much I’ve been missing when students communicate with me in math class. I’m not just referring to the explicit words that are spoken, but the physical cues they send me. I’m not only decoding what they are saying about math, but what they are saying about themselves at the same time. On top of that, I’m deciding which takes precedence, the mathematical thinking they are sharing or the personal information they are sharing?

That being said, clarifying is a skill I have found wonderfully useful in striving to learn more about what students are thinking, mathematically or otherwise. Clarifying can be an empathetic way of communicating that you understand what the student has just said, or if you misunderstood, it gives them an opportunity to correct you.

Some sentence starters for clarifying can be:

  • “What I’m hearing you say is…..am I right?”

  • “It sounds like you’re saying…..is that correct?”

  • “I want to make sure I understand what you’re saying, did you mean…..?”

  • “I can see that you’re thinking and I want to understand, did you mean…..?”

Carla Dawson