In my book study for Making Number Talks Matter,by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker, we studied chapter 2 this week. This chapter is written with an emphasis for teachers wanting to start using number talks in their classroom. Even though I have been using number talks for 10 years, called “routines” then, I got a great deal of helpful information in this chapter. It was also really nice to see that other teachers carry out number talks the same way that I do, and that we have critical common practices. For example, it is suggested that students use a thumbs up signal, which I have always used. Where my thinking is now stretched, is to encourage your fast finishers to use their finger to signal how many strategies, or ways, they have found for solving the same problem. I love this because it will continue to challenge these students while allowing the rest of the students to have their “think time”.
Another great take away was some suggestions on what to say when you really need to stop a number talk, but the students have not fully explored the idea. I tried it on in a number talk today, and it left the kids eager for me to come back.
I had written 19 + 1 is the same as ________. I recorded various student answers: 20, 20 + 1, 21, 18 + 1, 19 + 1. That is another suggestion, record and honor all student answers. I have always done that, because that was how I learned to do it. On a side note, I had another coach with me, and we both felt that the students were saying ANYTHING, just to see their answer on the board. I then asked students to defend their answers, or explain to me why that answer would be the same as 19 + 1. (I’m trying not to use the = sign–another blog). We ended up having a rich discussion where students said things like “it is the same as 20 because I just counted on 1” or it is the same as 18 + 2, or 17 + 3. These ideas came up because I explained that when you change your answer, “The sky parts, the sun comes out and rains glitter dust, and I am in my happy place”. Students began clamoring to “change their answer and change their thinking.” One young mathematician asked me to put a line through his answer 18 + 15 because it just didn’t make any sense. Time was up, and I told them “I know that many more of you have ideas that you want to share. May I come back tomorrow, so I can hear your thinking then?” This is a rich conversation that needs a chance to finish…we may even get to the = sign. The students know I value their thinking, and that they will be able to share with me tomorrow!
Chapter 2 explains the importance of letting the students make sense of their own mathematical ideas. To quote from page 13: “The minute we start to explain [for them], we take little bits of their ideas–and their autonomy as thinkers–away”.
My goal in the last few years is to talk less so that the students will talk more. My next goal in number talks comes from chapter 2: I will be trying to my students to talk to each other directly, instead of talking to me. I’m still reflecting how I will make that come about, but I will be trying……
Have a great week!
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