You are here

Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K-12

Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K-12
14 Teaching Practices for Enhancing Learning

First Edition

Foreword by Tracy Johnston Zager, Illustrations by Laura Wheeler

Additional resources:

January 2021 | 344 pages | Corwin

A thinking student is an engaged student

Teachers often find it difficult to implement lessons that help students go beyond rote memorization and repetitive calculations. In fact, institutional norms and habits that permeate all classrooms can actually be enabling “non-thinking” student behavior. Sparked by observing teachers struggle to implement rich mathematics tasks to engage students in deep thinking, Peter Liljedahl has translated his 15 years of research into this practical guide on how to move toward a thinking classroom. Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K–12 helps teachers implement 14 optimal practices for thinking that create an ideal setting for deep mathematics learning to occur. This guide

  • Provides the what, why, and how of each practice and answers teachers’ most frequently asked questions
  • Includes firsthand accounts of how these practices foster thinking through teacher and student interviews and student work samples
  • Offers a plethora of macro moves, micro moves, and rich tasks to get started
  • Organizes the 14 practices into four toolkits that can be implemented in order and built on throughout the year
When combined, these unique research-based practices create the optimal conditions for learner-centered, student-owned deep mathematical thinking and learning, and have the power to transform mathematics classrooms like never before.
Foreword by Tracy Johnston Zager
Chapter 1: What Are the Types of Tasks We Use in a Thinking Classroom?
Chapter 2: How We Form Collaborative Groups in a Thinking Classroom
Chapter 3: Where Students Work in a Thinking Classroom
Chapter 4: How We Arrange the Furniture in a Thinking Classroom
Chapter 5: How We Answer Questions in a Thinking Classroom
Chapter 6: When, Where, and How Tasks are Given in a Thinking Classroom
Chapter 7: What Homework Looks Like in a Thinking Classroom
Chapter 8: How We Foster Student Autonomy in a Thinking Classroom
Chapter 9: How We Use Hints and Extensions in a Thinking Classroom
Chapter 10: How we Consolidate a Lesson in a Thinking Classroom
Chapter 11: How Students Take Notes in a Thinking Classroom
Chapter 12: What We Choose to Evaluate in a Thinking Classroom
Chapter 13: How We Use Formative Assessment in a Thinking Classroom
Chapter 14: How We Grade in a Thinking Classroom
Chapter 15: Pulling the 14 Practices Together to Build a Thinking Classroom


Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics exudes enthusiasm for students, how they think, and how those thoughts coalesce into powerful thinking classrooms. It's also deeply practical, describing how everything from the teacher's questions to the arrangement of the furniture can add to your students' learning.”

Dan Meyer
Chief Academic Officer, Desmos

“If your students are not the ones doing the thinking in your classroom, then this book is for you!  Peter Liljedahl provides concrete advice on each of 14 research-based practices, along with answers to frequently asked questions and suggestions for getting started, which will help you build a classroom where student thinking is the norm.”

Peg Smith
University of Pittsburgh

“Peter Liljedahl’s Thinking Classroom framework transformed my mathematics classroom overnight. I was frustrated that despite my best teaching efforts, some of my students still couldn’t solve simple problems by their final exam. This framework gave me a starting point that I started implementing the very next day and next steps to continue incorporating as my practice evolved. Students began to talk to each other, think through complex problems, rely less on me and more on each other and best of all had better success in the courses I taught. The Thinking Classroom framework was exactly what my students and I needed!

Laura Wheeler
Ottawa Carleton District School Board

“Peter refers to his research as 'mucking about,' and that is the key thing for me, that he goes into actual classrooms, and does math with students. We learn the most from being in actual classrooms, talking to students, and figuring out how they think about mathematics tasks. We need our students to be better thinkers, and to see mathematics for what it is: a beautiful way of thinking. We need them to see that they, too, can have powerful insights into interesting mathematics problems.”

Matthew Oldridge
Author of Teaching Mathematics Through Problem-Solving in K-12 Classrooms

“An in-depth action plan backed with significant research and data, Liljedahl’s plan is one that can improve every classroom for the better, and he foresees and addresses any questions or concerns you may have regarding implementation. It is clear Liljedahl understands the students I teach in his list of student behaviors and this book outlines methods to increase the thinking and engagement of all my students. I was able to implement many of the methods the very next day.”

Leslie Mohlman
Alpine School District

“Peter Liljedahl’s work is accessible, inspired by research, and embedded in classroom practice. He digs deeply and concisely into what it means to teach, learn, and assess in a thinking mathematics classroom. Elementary teachers, especially, will recognize themselves in this resource. Peter makes visible the often intuitive moves of elementary classroom teachers, describing what it is we are doing when it all just works, and how to meaningfully shift our practice when it doesn’t.  From the way the furniture is arranged to how mathematical questions are posed, from who holds the pen to how to foster productive struggle and resilience, Peter sets the stage for genuine mathematical engagement in learners of all ages.” 

Carole Fullerton
Mind-Full Educational Consulting

“Research in education that turns right around and informs our practice is invaluable in today’s schools and classrooms.  Peter uses evidence gathered in mathematics classrooms to directly inform how we make changes to our teaching and learning that enhances learning.  This is the essence of evidence-based practice, practice based on evidence from the very classrooms we seek to influence."

John Almarode
James Madison University

“After years of leading lessons in an ‘I do, we do, you do’ format, I found that my students lacked a productive disposition towards mathematics and would give up on problems easily. I knew something had to change, but what was I going to change in my teaching practice and how was I going to get there? After 10 years of experimenting with different pedagogical approaches, classroom environment setups, and developing my own content knowledge, I realize that this book is the resource that could have helped me expedite the transformation I was after - moving from a classroom of “mimickers” to building a classroom of “thinkers”. Save yourself years of experimentation by investing a few hours reading this excellent book. Your students will thank you.”

Kyle Pearce & Greater Essex County District School Board

"Building Thinking Classrooms is an instructional tour de force for any math teacher. From his extensive research, Peter offers remarkably actionable classroom structures and teacher facilitation moves that get students to think and move forward in their thinking. I'm thrilled it's finally here!"

Fawn Nguyen
Rio School District

"For years I have heard about Thinking Classrooms in workshops, articles, and online. This engaging book has taken all the pieces that I have heard and seen and presents them in an easy to read, and more importantly, actionable package. Things that seemed a little too “I could never do that” for me now seem doable and I am inspired to begin to make changes. I am left with plenty to reflect upon in my current practice even as I begin to think about moving to a Thinking Classroom."

Casey McCormick
Math Teacher, Grades 5-8

For instructors

Select a Purchasing Option

ISBN: 9781544374833