One of my big “Ah Ha” moments this year came through researching Number Talks. I learned that I could decide what my Number Talk of the day would be instead of a prescribed list generated at the beginning of the school year, my Number Talks could be driven by my current unit strategies, preloading for future units, review strategies, or troubled spots that come up with students. FREEDOM for me the teacher!!!!!
I was driven with this new vision to implement Number Talks and make it an integral part of my math block, five days a week, (give or take) 10 minutes a day.
What did I learn from consistent Number Talks? I have found three areas of expected/unexpected outcomes:
- Strengthened in flexible thinking, examining errors, and student voice, number sense-Expected
- Strengthened use of Standards of mathematical practice-Unexpected
- Unveiling misconceptions, increase student confidence and motivation, my own increased number sense-Unexpected
- Flexible thinking-there is more than one way to solve a problem in real life and in math class too! Number Talks allow students to see problems from different perspectives. I love the “Oh’s” I hear as someone explains their strategy and thinking in a way that no one thought of before. This gives students opportunity to reflect on and compare their solutions with other students in a safe environment, and try out a new one the next time.
- The value of errors in deepening understanding. We know through a growth mindset that students (and teachers) learn more when they make a mistake. Mistakes are celebrated and investigated. It is a victory to finally understand where the mistake happened and how to correct it.
- Number Talks is a way for many students to have their voices heard. Kids love to hear their voices heard and having their fellow students agree with their thinking is powerful, and also increases their mathematical confidence!
- Number sense increase for students. Students are better able to process computational skills. This is a skill that will transfer into math tasks, activities, and life.
Standards of Mathematical Practices
- SMP#1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. We start a computational skill with easier calculations. But, as we continue the practice becomes more rigorous. Perseverance is celebrated.
- SMP #3 Viable arguments and Critiquing others: Students are ready to justify their strategy as they share out. On the other hand, students critique others reasons for their incorrect mathematical processes. Hands go up, students respectfully disagree and justify their reasoning.
- SMP #6 Precise language -I am amazed at the language that comes from my students (in a good way)! By my use of precise language to describe concepts, strategies, and properties, my students adopt the same vocabulary in their language. No coercion necessary; it’s natural and authentic. Love it!
- SMP #7 Look and Make and Use of structure When a student is sharing an algorithm for their mental strategy, I will write it out using algebraic reasoning. This is really eye opening when they realize we are talking the same thing! Also as we look at our board with all our strategies on it, we can point out that are many of the same things going on in all of calculations (structure).
- A Window into students thinking – I have unexpectedly uncovered many mathematical misconceptions during Number Talks. One day, for example, while calculating equivalent fractions, a student told the class his strategy of adding “one” to the numerator and “one” to the denominator to have an equivalent fraction. Did I have to say anything? No. Other students respectfully disagreed, and proceeded to “teach” this student a correct strategy to find equivalent fractions. Beautiful! This scenario has repeated itself many times.
- Confidence and motivation– As students contribute they begin to have a greater positive mathematical identity. I overheard a student saying the other day to their group, “I used to be not very good at math, but now I am really good at it”. It wasn’t until our daily Number Talks were devoted to multiplying decimals that students started having confidence in their computational skills in that area, more and more students were ready to share their strategies. Repeated experience with no stress or anxiety.
- My own number sense has increased with Number Talks. I have learned many strategies which expands my ability to see numbers differently. I am also more capable to mentally process an answer to a computation.
A Number Talk video-https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YV4o_U8K9aA