Welcome to week 1 of our book study on Number Talks. This is a great book for K-5 classroom teachers, special educators and math specialists. It is also a great book for administrators and other educational professionals to read to learn more about what good math teaching looks like.
Join me each Sunday as we discuss the week's reading and make connections to our own teaching practice. Leave a comment on this blog post or head over to Facebook and leave your thoughts there. If you have your own blog and want to write a post about it on your own blog, just leave the link in the comments section.
Part 1: January 11th Chapters 1 & 2
Part 2: January 18th Chapter 3
Part 3: January 25th Chapter 4
Part 4: February 1st: Chapters 5 & 6
Part 5: February 8th: Chapters 7 & 8
Part 6: February 15th: Chapter 9
If you are looking for a general overview of what Number Talks is all about, check out this short article from the author, Sherry Parrish
Chapter 1: What is a Classroom Number Talk
This is my first time reading this book but I started using number talks with my students 3 years ago. Our district had done some excellent math professional development and the teacher leading the professional development was a big fan of number talks. I learned a lot about getting kids to share mental strategies and which types of problems and problem strings bring out the strategies I want my students to be proficient with. Making a commitment to using number talks in the classroom has changed my teaching for the better over the last few years. In many ways I feel like adding number talks has been the single most important change to my teaching practice. I have always seen value in mental math and flexible thinking. I used to do some mental math exercises and problem strings with my students once in a while as kind of a change from the regular schedule. Now however, I use number talks as a cornerstone of my instruction and see mental math and flexible thinking as the building blocks to developing a strong conceptual understanding.
If you have never done a number talk here is my take on the basics. You are presenting your students with a problem or a few related problems that you will ask them to solve mentally. As kids find a solution, they give you a signal that they are ready. I have always had them put their thumb up and bring it to their lips. I love the idea in this chapter about having them come up with another way to solve the problem while they are waiting and putting up a finger for each additional way. I can't wait to try this! When most kids are giving me the ready signal, I first ask for answers. I record just the numerical answers that kids give me not indicating right or wrong answers. Then kids can share with a partner or the entire class what their strategy is. As the teacher, I try to capture what the students are telling me by recording equations, open number lines, diagrams or other tidbits that show their strategy. Other students get a chance to share their ideas as well and then the strategies are compared and contrasted. I also like to talk with kids about the efficiency of various strategies. Wrong answers given serve as a great learning opportunity to find mistakes and help kids think more flexibly about numbers. Most of the time a number talk will take 10-15 minutes but occasionally my students will be so engaged and excited about their strategies that I will let it go a little longer and offer more problems in the string or increase the complexity of the problems we are solving.
Chapter 2: How Do I Prepare for Number Talks
Location: I most often do number talks by having kids gather on the rug in front of the white board. Things might get a little squished but I like to have the students close to me so I can hear them sharing their ideas when we do a partner share. This is the time where I can listen in and think about which students I want to share with the entire class. When all students are close to me, it is amazing how many conversations I can listen into at once. I also like how changing the location mixes up who is paired up with who each day. My students greatest teachers are each other and I like to keep things fresh!
Wait Time: Most teachers THINK they give plenty of wait time, myself included. When I was doing my master's program this is one of the things I worked on in great detail though observations and video. I thought my wait time was excellent and it really was only 2-3 seconds. Extending my wait time was super uncomfortable for both my students and me but now it is the new normal. Along with my other formative assessment strategies, waiting until kids have time to think has really helped increase the achievement of all the learners in my classes.
Think-Pair-Share: To me this is the backbone of number talks. I get the chance to hear kids strategies and decide who I want to share with the entire group. ALL of my students get a chance to articulate how they solved the problem. My students get a chance to practice listening and understanding someone else's strategy. I love the pair-share aspect and do it with almost every problem. When pair-share time is finished, I often ask a pair to share each other's strategies. Partner A tells me what partner B did to solve the problem and partner B tells me what partner A did. Holding kids accountable for their partner's idea has really increased engagement during pair-share time.
Recording Student Thinking: It is your job as the teacher to record students ideas on the white board while they are sharing their thinking. It can be very intimidating the first few times, especially if you are not used to hearing a lot of different ideas. I still sometimes struggle to understand and capture a students idea but I try to tell myself to stop teaching and start listening. Listen to what your student is saying, ask questions and let the class work as a team to figure out how each student solved the problem.
Keeping Students Accountable: For me, the best way to keep kids accountable is by giving an exit question. Even though my students sit close to me, I listen hard and work my best at making sure everyone is getting it, some kids are just so good at faking it. Giving an exit ticket is a painless and efficient way to see what strategies kids are using and who is completely lacking a strategy. I often just give kids one problem and a quarter sheet of scrap paper. I write the problem on the board and ask them to solve the problem and show me how they got their answer. Because they are used to seeing me record their thinking with number sentence, open number lines and diagrams they are usually pretty good about being able to capture their strategy on paper. I collect the papers and take a minute right then (usually) to sort the exit tickets by strategy. I take particular note of those students who do not have a strategy so I can address that with a small group number talk during Guided Math groups. I also take particular note of any strategies that were super efficient or something I want shared with the entire class. I might start the next class by showing a few of the exit tickets on the projector and having kids try to tell me how they problem was solve based on what they see on the paper.
I love how number talks have changed learning in my classes and can't wait to read more and refine my approach. How about you? What are your thoughts on setting up and starting number talks? Have you tried it yet? How did it go? Please respond in the comments below!