Dear Teacher:

I have been modeling number talks across the grade levels at my school site. I had a particularly spectacular response to the problem in 2nd grade. I was using a string from the Number Talks book by Parrish.

There has been some concern by the 3-5 teachers that students see the “=” sign as a signal to go, or get an answer, so, for the first problem, I wrote:

19 + 1 is the same as ____________. I was expecting the students to say “20”, and eventually, they did. What I got first was amazing!

19 + 1 is the same as 10 plus 10! 19 + 1 is the same as 15 + 5 and it continued on. Eventually one student said that those sentences all said the same thing as 20!

When I asked 19 + 5, I got the same thing. Several other responses, and then they started saying things like- 20 + 5 is 25, then take away 1, because 19 is one less than 20.

As we worked our way down the string, adding 19 + 9 and 19 + 25, they continued to decompose and compose the numbers with ease.

These students are a great example of how powerful number talks can be, and how important it is to plan every word carefully! I’m convinced that starting without the = sign made the difference.

#mathrocks #numbertalks

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I love the thinking that came from making that change. Great reminder for us!

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I also think that this is a great example of why teachers of students the next year think that the prior year teacher didn’t teach any math because “the students are coming knowing nothing.” The students know so much; perhaps the teacher is using the wrong language or stimulus. Thanks for such a reminder of making math accessible by the language we choose to use!

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