Number talks has taken off in my schools like it has in many schools in other areas. It is quality math routine that helps build students number sense, their ability to justify their thinking, helps build math discourse in your class plus many other benefits. I just want to take the time to write quick blog about really making sure these are purposeful. I know they are planned based on strategy if you are using the “Number Talks ” resource by Sherry Parrish which is important but I think it is also important to make sure their are a couple other key points when using number talks. All of these are mentioned in the number talks book or other resources but I am not always seeing them used in classes.
I think when planning to use number talks you need to not only be looking at strategies but also making sure you have thought about these three parts too:
1) Models (array, number line etc.) are being used to support the student thinking you are recording on the board. Cathy Fosnot talks about this in a video on the LeadTeachLearn site. She says it is the most important piece when doing number talks or number strings. Here are two examples of what that could look like:
2) A key idea is included in your focus (associative property, unitizing, distributive property etc) and that is based on knowing your students and where they are at. For example, if you are using the Lawson’s Multiplying/Dividing continuumto track your students progress through operations development and you have a class that is mostly drawing composite units and counting (see picture below)
even though they may be in Grade 4/5 we have to craft our number talks to build on key ideas that they need. These students need to learn unitizing (seeing a group of ones as one unit, in the case of the example above it would be seeing them as groups of 3). If you are using the number talks resource to work on doubling and halving or partial product strategies but the majority of your students are still counting composite units, the number talk is not going to be as effective. Those strategies may be to advanced for the majority of your students. I think it is also another reason why we should put the prompt up and see what strategies come out and not specifically instruct a strategy for the day or week. Through their work guide them to highlight strategies that come up and how they make use of certain key ideas. Eventually modeling how to use certain strategies that don’t surface but always connecting them to each other and the key ideas needed to use them. I would love to hear other peoples thoughts on this aspect of number talks.
3) Alway think about how you can improve the math discourse during your number talks. Maybe this is co-creating a math talk anchor chart with words they can use to help build their vocabulary when talking to each other, words like: build on, agree or disagree, piggy back etc.
I also recently was shown an article that was provided at one of our math lead adobe connects sessions, it’s called “Engaging All Students in Mathematical Discussions” by Bahr and Bahr. I believe it is from NCTM. It is an awesome article that talks about assigning listening roles during math discussions. For example, before your number talk you would assign everyone the listening role where they need to listen to the speaker’s strategy and then compare how it is different/same as their own. This will help engage more students in the math discourse during number talks.
I was recently in a teacher’s classroom that I work with often. He does a great job of using purposeful number talks. In this video he was using dot arrays to help students learn and improve on using the distributive property of multiplication. Through diagnostic assessment he realized he had many additive thinkers and is trying to move them to use more multiplicative strategies by making use of the distributive property and dot arrays. I have heard the distributive property called a student’s friend for life in few different articles. Most recently in Chris Hirst’s “The Multiplicative Situation”. I love that statement and agree totally! Here is the clip:
I really like how Ed stated that he was going to model the students thinking. The students in his class are use to having their thinking not only notated with numbers but also modelled using a models like the array or number line. You can also see they are very comfortable sharing their thinking because of the environment he has created in his class. Number talks are great! I just think we need to be more purposeful in how we do them and be careful not to fall into just following the resource and moving strategy by strategy.
I am always interested to hear peoples thoughts on my posts. Please share any comments or ideas you have to build on this post. Thanks!