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Stand and Talk: A Strategy for Improving Statistical Communication

Updated: Aug 29, 2023


Leigh Nataro teaches elementary statistics, math for business, and math for teaching at Moravian University in Bethlehem, PA. Leigh has been an AP Exam Reader and Table Leader and was on the AP Statistics Instructional Design Team, where she helped to tag items for the AP Classroom question bank. In addition to leading AP Statistics workshops, Leigh leads in-person and virtual Desmos workshops with Amplify. Leigh can be reached on Twitter at @mathteacher24.


Communication and statistical reasoning are the hallmarks of AP Statistics. Describing distributions, explaining why an outcome is reasonable or not, and using a confidence interval to assess a claim are examples of the communication and statistical reasoning required of students. But how do we get our students to develop the skills they need to successfully write their arguments? Getting them to write their ideas clearly can be a challenge.


The first step to getting students to write statistically is getting them to talk statistically.


With any new language acquisition, including statistics, talking happens before writing. And getting every single student to talk about statistics every day can be a challenge, unless you use a strategy called “Stand and Talk”. Students are presented with a prompt and then verbally share their ideas while standing with a classmate.


I first learned about the “Stand and Talk” strategy when I attended a session at the NCTM annual conference in 2018. Sara VanDerWerf is a math educator from Minnesota and a very engaging presenter. One of Sarah’s goals is that “Every student talks out loud about math EVERY day.” Another one of her goals is that “Students will see it before I show them. Students will say it before I tell them.” (Kind of sounds like Experience First, Formalize Later (EFFL), doesn’t it?) At first I was skeptical. Wouldn’t it take too much time? Would all students talk about math or would they get off task? Sara demonstrated the strategy in a room of over 300 people and it was amazing to see the strategy in action. Participating in the strategy helped me to know how it worked and gave me the motivation to try it myself.


Steps for Leading a “Stand and Talk”

  1. Present students with a prompt and a question for them to think about. The prompt can be on paper they have in front of them or displayed at the front of the room. There should be multiple ideas for them to discuss or no clear “right” answer.

  2. Give the students between 30 and 60 seconds of individual think time about the prompt.

  3. Tell students to stand up and find a discussion partner. There are no trios or opting out. If there is an odd number of students in the room, the teacher pairs up with the student that does not have a partner.

  4. Let students talk for about 2-3 minutes.

  5. Debrief the prompt and question while students are still standing. If students sit down, the momentum is lost. Debriefing should come from the students. They are already primed to talk and many would be willing to share. Restate the prompt or ask a question like, “what observations did you share with your partner?”


Examples of “Stand and Talk” Prompts


Here are a few examples of prompts I have given for “Stand and Talks” in my statistics class, but this strategy can be used in any math class. Here is a link to Sara Van Der Werf’s blog where she discusses her use of this strategy.


Example 1: Same and Different


To have students do a “Stand and Talk” for this prompt, I share the image of the parallel boxplots and ask them to find one or more ways the graphs are the same and one or more ways the graphs are different. I also mention the context of salary at the corporations, because it is important for students to ground their comparisons in context. Often students are asked to compare two distributions, which is essentially the same as asking them how the distributions are the same and how they are different.



Example 2: Make and Justify a Decision


This prompt is one that I share before we formally discuss measures of center and spread. In addition to the benefits of a “Stand and Talk”, I get to hear what statistics students already know or partially know and I get a sense of students’ ability to justify their choice. The added benefit of this prompt is many students are familiar with delivery times for food and care about getting their pizza delivered quickly. When students are interested in a topic, they naturally talk more about it.


Example 3: Reviewing Vocabulary


It can be challenging to get students to ask questions in front of their peers. Who wants to admit that they don’t know something? It is socially safer to not ask questions. So how can I get students to ask questions as we review for a test or for the AP Exam?


On the day of reviewing the unit on Collecting Data, I asked students to give me a list of words that they recalled from that unit. They didn’t need to know the definition, just the word. I had them “popcorn” the words - just calling them out without me calling on any one student and I added a few words myself. At this point I could have asked students “What words do you want to review? Or what words aren’t you sure about?” If I had done this, the room would have been so silent you could have heard a pin drop.



Instead, I told students we were going to do a “Stand and Talk”. They were to look at the words and pick out 1 or 2 words they felt they didn’t really know. Then, they found someone to talk to about their words. It was very freeing for the students. They realized that everyone had some words they didn’t know. They were not alone in that regard! I let one pair of students know that I would be asking for their words first and they were ok to start the sharing. As students shared their words, I asked “Who is willing to share their understanding about X?” The explanations came from the students. How powerful is that?


Benefits of the “Stand and Talk” Strategy

  1. Students get to know their classmates as I require them to find a person that is not immediately seated beside them. And I remind them to introduce themselves to their “Stand and Talk” partner if they don’t know each other.

  2. This strategy is a great “brain break” for longer class periods, but it also only takes about 5 minutes!

  3. There can be greater engagement from students who tend to be more quiet. To encourage this, I walk around the room and notice what students are sharing. Sometimes I’ll say something like “That is an interesting idea. Would you be willing to share it when we debrief?” This gets students involved that are more reticent to share their ideas with the class and ultimately leads to richer discourse as the year progresses.

  4. The greatest benefit of using this strategy is that all students have the opportunity to practice new vocabulary, which ultimately leads to strengthening students’ individual written statistical communication.


Give it a Try!


“Stand and Talks” are an easy way to get students to begin to communicate and reason statistically. Let students know that you are trying something new and thank them for participating. There is a chance the strategy might not work right the first time you do it. If it does not go well, don’t abandon the strategy. Try to figure out what went awry. Did you give them enough time to think individually? Did you debrief standing up? Was the prompt one that allowed for discussion? Tweak the strategy and try again. One of the main aspects I love about the AP Statistics teacher community is that it gives me the opportunity to learn from others, grow with others and share with others. If you use this strategy, please share your questions and successes with me at @mathteacher24 or leighnataro@gmail.com.

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Aaron Hayes
Aaron Hayes
15 ก.พ. 2566

This builds on similar ideas from the vertical non-permanent surfaces discussions Lindahl pioneered. Anything that has kids discussing things in a way they can try things out first before we put a frame on it is helpful. It also touches on Marzano's work about the greater benefit students receive when they process work first before evaluation (or in this summarizing). Great share!

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