Clothesline Math and the Power of Discourse

Welcome back math geeks!  I want to share with you a video that shows the raw power of using Clothesline Math in your classroom to promote student to student discourse.  I share this video because I want you to see how clothesline activities generate student to student discourse and promote student thinking and math development.  And I want you to feel empowered to use this tool in your classroom.  And I invite you to share what you learn in your elementary, middle, or high school classrooms.

Clothesline Math and Student Discourse

I conducted a lesson study with some 3rd grade teachers in Northern California recently.  We introduced the idea of using a clothesline as a concrete manipulative for number lines and invited students to practice placing and spacing numbers at their appropriate locations.

In the video below, students were working on placing 1/2, 1, and 2 on the clothesline using 0 and 3 as the anchor numbers.  This was the first lesson that these students were asked to plot fractions on the number line.

I’ll let the students to speak for themselves.

As you watch, what sense-making is evident in their discourse with each other?  How are they helping each other?  What questions are they asking each other?  What statements are they making?  What do they do when the get stuck?  What do they do when we don’t immediately dive in to save them?  Which math practices are they embodying?  What other interesting evidence do you notice?  And what are you left wondering?

(Quick note:  there’s a crossfade in the middle of the clip that cuts out about 7 seconds of real time.  I had stopped filming because I thought the students were done, but as you’ll see, I was clearly mistaken.  And I started filming again, thankfully!)

(Click here if viewing on your phone.)

An Invitation

So, how can you use Clotheslines in your classroom?  What skills or concepts can be practiced or explored?  Need some ideas or support?  Post a comment!  I’d love to hear from you.

Interested in More?

You can find out more about my Clothesline Math activities here.  And you can dive deeper by visiting the Clothesline Math website and learning more about the fine work of Chris Shore, Andrew Stadel, and Dan Luevanos.

(And a special thanks to the fine teachers I worked with during this lesson study.  Thank you!)

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