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Megan Staples and Melissa M. Colonis

The importance of mathematical discourse and its connection to developing conceptual understanding, communication, and reasoning is well documented throughout NCTM's Principles and Standards for School Mathematics (2000). For example, NCTM's Learning Principle emphasizes the role of discourse in supporting student learning, noting that “classroom discourse and social interaction can be used to promote the recognition of connections among ideas and the reorganization of knowledge (Lampert 1986)” (NCTM 2000, p. 21). The skillful facilitation of discussions is something both novice and experienced teachers find challenging. Most teachers can recall a well-planned lesson that did not unfold as expected. From this article, we hope readers gain insight into planning mathematically focused, collaborative discussions. We illuminate three key aspects of the pedagogy of teachers who were successful in consistently organizing whole-class discussions. These teachers created learning environments aligned with NCTM's vision of good practice, where students were given conceptually demanding tasks, worked together to develop ideas, and consistently were asked to make sense of mathematics.