Curious about using Zoom’s Breakout Rooms to teach small math groups online? **Well, in this post guest writer Sherry Ann Morgenstern shares all the nitty-gritty details of fostering math talks with Zoom breakout rooms! **This post also gives ideas on different math activities you can do for distance learning.

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What Are Math Talks?

Math Talk is a way for students to have meaningful conversations with each other about math.

Students use phrases like

- βMy first step was β¦β
- βI agree with Jaime because β¦β
- “Another way to solve this problem is…”

Math talks show students that there are multiple correct ways to approach a math problem.

However, math talks can be difficult to develop in a virtual environment where peer-to-peer interaction is limited. **Thankfully, Zoom Breakout Rooms provide a way for teachers to continue fostering this essential skill. **

**Whatβs a Breakout Room?**

Breakout Rooms allow you to split Zoom participants into simultaneous, smaller sessions.

As the host of the conference, you can pre-assign participants to Breakout Rooms before the session starts (within some limitations), assign students to Rooms after the session starts, or let Zoom automatically place students in Rooms.

**Other valuable features include:**

- you will be able to jump into any of the Breakout Rooms at any time, which allows you to make sure students are staying on task
- students will also be able to signal to you if they need help by clicking the βAsk for Helpβ button
- easy-to-find notifications will appear on your screen with the name of the student asking for assistance
- using Zoom breakout rooms to foster math talks also allows you to differentiate your math groups and activities based on student need–just like you would do with math centers in the brick-and-mortar classroom

**If this sounds difficult, donβt worry! Itβs very intuitive once you get started**!

**How do I set up Breakout Rooms for Math Talks?**

The Breakout Rooms feature is included for all Zoom accounts, but the option doesnβt come up automatically.

To enable Breakout Rooms, you must first go to the Settings in your account.

If youβve never used Zoom Breakout Rooms before, check out this article on how to set them up.

It has a step-by-step video tutorial that guides you along the process.

These pictures also show the steps for setting up your Zoom breakout rooms:

**Teaching Math Talks For Distance Learning**

If your students have never heard of or practiced Math Talks before, model a practice round in the Main Room, which is the area where all students can see you on camera.

Use a simple problem like 1 + 2 + 3 and ask a group of one or two students to discuss with each other in front of the class how they solved it.

Instruct them to be specific in their steps and to use phrases like βI agree because β¦β and βI disagree because β¦β.

After a round of exchanges, point out what the students did well and ask for one or two more examples of Math Talk from the class.

When you feel theyβre ready, continue to the main assignment where students will now be divided into small groups!

**Ideas for Breakout Room Assignments with Math**

There are so many engaging ways to foster math talks using Zoom Breakout Rooms. In this section, you’ll find a list of specific math activities to help students strengthen their math skills through distance learning!

*Puzzlers (a.k.a. Word Problems*)

*Puzzlers (a.k.a. Word Problems*

This activity works well with older middle school and high school students. Create Breakout Rooms of 3-4 students each. Assign a different word problem to each group (or a word problem per two groups for larger classes). In their groups, students should:

- Analyze the problem. What is the question asking? What information do we know?
- Solve the problem. How will we solve the problem? Whatβs another way to solve the problem? Do we agree or disagree? Why?
- Check their work. Does our answer make sense? How do we know our answer is correct?

For students that need scaffolding, assign roles to each student in the group or have them assign roles to each other once they are in their breakout rooms. Possible roles include:

**Analyzer:**Reads the problem out loud and explains its meaning to the group; answers questions about the problem from the group**Computer:**Computes problems and helps other group members stuck on computations; if calculators are allowed, this person is in charge of using it**Notetaker:**Takes notes on the groupβs discussion for the Reporter**Reporter:**Reports findings back to the class**Checker:**Checks the work of everyone in the group**Solver:**Works to solve the problem; everyone in the group is a solver

At the end of a time limit (I suggest 10-15 minutes), students return to the main room and the Reporter from each group is called upon to read their problem to the class and share their findings.

*Arithmetic Bubbles*

*Arithmetic Bubbles*

Younger students respond well to this activity, which works like the Puzzlers except student discussion is more straightforward.

To begin, each group is assigned the same arithmetic problem. For instance, each group could be given the problem 169 / 13. Group members are then split into Breakout Rooms (Bubbles) and work together to solve the problem; they compare answers and share their strategies.

When time is up, students rejoin the Main Room and review the correct answer.

For a competitive version, Bubbles can be given team names and compete for the most correct answers in three rounds. To ensure every student participates within their Bubble, assign a Team Leader to each group that rotates every round. Stronger students can be Team Leaders in early rounds and weaker students can be Team Leaders in later rounds.

*Post-Discussion Groups*

*Post-Discussion Groups*

The third way to foster math talks using Zoom Breakout rooms is with post-discussion groups.

In this activity, the students and teacher solve an arithmetic or word problem together as a class. Then, Breakout Rooms of students brainstorm one or two other ways they could have solved the same problem. At the end of 5 minutes, they report back to the Main Room.

NOTE: Students have the option in Zoom to return to the Main Room on their own; however, they will automatically return 60 seconds after the Host (you) closes all Breakout Rooms.

These activities are just three examples of what’s possible to do with Zoom breakout rooms. I hope they help you get started teaching math through distance learning!

**More Distance Learning Math Ideas** **and Freebies!!**

As you try out the steps in this post, add to your teaching tool belt with even more math talks, math centers, and engaging resources for teaching math!

Several of the posts below also have MATH FREEBIES you can download to use for in-class or virtual learning.

**Fun Ways to Teach Place Value to Third Graders****Engaging Activities for Teaching Multiplication Through Distance Learning****7 Quick & Easy Math Center Ideas****The BEST Math Read Aloud Books Ever****An Engaging Way to Teach Math & Critical Thinking****Promoting Critical Thinking with Math Riddles**

**AUTHOR BIO**

Sherry Ann Morgenstern is a writer, researcher, and educator based in Nanuet, New York. She is passionate about learning and dedicated to providing an excellent education for all students. Originally from Virginia, she holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Yale University. Contact her at [email protected].