## Saturday, January 10, 2015

### Number Talks Book Study: Part 1

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.

Posting Schedule
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!

#### 18 comments:

1. Great post! I enjoy reading the perspective of a math coach since you work with so many grade levels. Thanks so much for sharing and hosting the book study! Posted on our blog as well!

Smiles,
Sarah

1. Can't wait to read it! Here is the link for others to check out! http://www.guided-math-adventures.com/2015/01/number-talks-book-study-chapters-1-2.html

2. I am excited to read your thoughts on the book and to follow along on my blog. Here is my post on Chapters 1 & 2: http://firstgradekate.blogspot.com/2015/01/number-talk-linky-chapters-1-2.html

- Katy
First Grade Kate

1. I love your points about the teacher's role in all of this. I think that is the hardest part for most teachers! Keeping a blank face when taking answers and listening instead of teaching!

3. This book has been on my list for a while. I must read it!

1. You won't regret it! I know I am just reading this book but I have been so inspired by it and have been applying the principles of this book for the last few years and it has made a big difference!

4. I look forward to follow your thoughts on this book. I read it over the summer and have implemented bits and pieces. I am not using it to its fullest potential-yet. I agree one of my best used and favorite tips from the book is having my scholars put up a finger when they have a solution and then keep thinking (and adding fingers.) It really makes them dig dipper and look at the various strategies they can use. Thank you for choosing this book as your book study.

1. What do you think the biggest obstacle is to using it to its fullest potential? I would love to hear more about what parts you are doing consistently and what you are finding challenging!

5. I LOVE number talks! I took a quick three hour class that included the book... and then never finished reading it. It's so difficult to find the time. So I'm excited to read through it with you. Thanks!

Denise
Light Bulbs and Laughter

1. Wow! A three hour class is certainly a quick one but I find quick and focused professional development can be very effective. I like to do book studies because it keeps me accountable to finishing the book and it slows my pace down so that I really have time to absorb the information.

6. As a 1st year math coach in a district that has been heavily focused on literacy for many years, I am very excited about this book and about how easily I will be able to get teachers on board using Number Talks in their classrooms. The way the 1st 2 chapters have laid out a very clear plan will allow me to pass on this helpful method at our next PD session. I cant wait to read the rest!!

1. It is easy to get teachers on board with number talks! I was convinced the first time I saw one demonstrated and if you lead a few for teachers in your school they will be jumping right on. I also like how number talks isn't so much information that you can't fit it into short professional development times. I also like how you can cover the material in the first few chapters, have teachers go out and try it and come back and share and go from there. It is a great topic for a professional learning community or another type of group that meets regularly for a short period of time.

7. I bought this book in September and began reading the sections for older students. I teach 5th grade. Then, school started and I never got back to it. This book study has motivated me to get going again. I have heard only wonderful things about this book. Thanks for hosting this book study.

1. Hi Debbie! I am glad you are getting back to it and am certain you will love the magic of number talks!

8. What makes Number Talks so exciting for me is that I get insight into how my students think mathematically. We have always been a community, and a family, but now we are a community of learners. Students start to understand the difference between 'academic talk' and 'social talk'. As a teacher with a full plate, I really appreciate the encouraging tone the author uses to make suggestions, and I also appreciate how she explains how to implement. It's not just 'one more thing'; it really makes a difference!

1. Love this comment! A number talk is a great way to show kids what academic talk is. Great point about the author's tone and completeness of ideas!

9. I'm in love with Number Talks! Wow! How powerful! I am in my first year in a newly created position of Math Coach for K-5 in our district. I have been providing Professional Development for teachers and assistants all year long modeling various strategies for all the operations and discussing the fundamental skills that need to be in place that help foster number sense like making 10's, the ability to decompose numbers, etc. Number Talks provide the missing piece. I have always loved allowing students to discuss their thinking, but this book provides the framework for the discussion and encourages the strategies we have been teaching our young students (I'm thinking particularly about open numberlines) and helps them take the next step to apply those strategies to calculate mentally. We are required to give various tests for Math which show the equations vertically and thus encourages the standard algorithm methods (which, of course, contain no underlying understanding of place value). I have been proposing to my teachers that the goal would be for our students to calculate the answers mentally. The more we do these number talks at the lower elementary, the further they will be able to go in their mathematical journeys. I am amazed when I watch the videos on the DVDs at the sophistication these children have at even the young ages. Thanks so much for providing this opportunity. I can't wait to read and discuss more!
Ann Elise

1. As we have adopted a more number talks based model for classroom instruction, we have changed the way our district assessment looks for math. There are some people who still want a timed, vertical, standard algorithm test but those are all folks who have not yet embraced number talks. I am so glad you will be joining our discussion of number talks.