Socratic Circles in Math

Socratic Circles is an engaging activity that allows students to develop critical and creative thinking skills through class discussion led by students.

Students are provided a text to read critically prior to class…noting questions and/or points they want to make in discussion. In class, the students form two concentric circles. The inner circle examines and discusses the text and the second circle critiques their discussion. The two circles switch places and roles, and the process is repeated with the new ideas from the new inner circle students. The outer circle is required to remain quiet while the inner circle responds to the text. Also the inner circle must listen respectfully to the outer circle’s critique of their discussion.

As a math teacher, I opted to use released open-response items of sample student work provided by the Arkansas Department of Education as the text for discussion. I provided my students with four samples of work, the corresponding rubrics, and a copy of the strands and standards for geometry. The first inner circle discussed two measurement prompts, while the second inner circle discussed two language of geometry prompts. The students were expected to address four key components: content knowledge required to complete the prompt, organization of sample work, accuracy of the response, and rubric rating.
The discussion was enlightening! My students made comments like...

"I don't know why they didn't just say corresponding instead of being so vague in their response"

"This response is a mess to read."

"This student clearly knows what she is doing, but she didn't ask the question posed in the prompt."
These are the things that I want my students to do. Communicate clearly with your expanded vocabulary. Be neat and organized. Read carefully to ensure you are answering the question asked. But this activity far outweighs my "teacher talk" because the students experience and wrestle with sample work that lacks these things.

We completed our first Socratic Circles activity in geometry on Friday. It was wildly successful. When I asked my students if they found this activity to be beneficial, they all said, "Yes!" The reasons provided include...

"Now I will check my EOC prompts like I'm the grader."

"I see how easy it is to miss the actual question."

"It's pretty annoying to review work that's unorganized."

"It helps me to tie the prompt to the strands of standards we will be tested on."

We will squeeze in two more Socratic Circles before the geometry end-of-course exam on April 17-18. And if you're interested in trying this activity in your classroom, you will want to download these number cards:

This FREEBIE is a set of number cards. One set of blue cards #1-15, one set of orange cards #1-15, and a blackline master of cards #1-15. Click on the pic to download a set of number cards to use in your Socratic Circles.

I apologize for being MIA this past week...we are in Benchmark Bootcamp for two weeks before state testing. My evenings are filled with adjusting lesson plans for the following day. I'll be back into full swing by Earth Day. ;)

Enjoy...and make it count!



  1. Anonymous4/02/2012

    This looked interesting, but it wouldn't allow me to download. This happens sometimes with TPT. Frustrating, but thank you for working hard for others.


  2. You've got mail! :-)

    I hopped over to TpT and ran a trial. I was able to download the .PDF document. Please let me know if you have further issues. Thanks!