When I reflect on one thing that I think has the potential to change the math journey for every child, I think of Number Talks! I first learned about Number Talks when I purchased Sherry Parrish’s Number Talks book. I loved that it included example dot patterns, 10frame patterns, rekenrek patterns, and examples for every operation that I could use in my classroom as well as a DVD showing students actually doing number talks from kindergarten to 5th grade. I was floored with their thinking! There were some times I had to pause the video to try to figure out what the children were doing to solve some pretty sophisticated expressions! Wow!
I also love the book Making Number Talks Matter by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker because it not only discusses the strategies that students employ but it also shows how the very same strategies used for simple expressions are applied down the road to larger numbers, decimals, and fractions! So incredibly powerful!!
Here are the reasons why I love Number Talks so much:
- students are actively constructing their own thinking in a way that makes sense to them
- number talk routines get children talking about numbers and their thinking – so many times I have learned about a way of solving a problem that I never would have thought of on my own!
- students learn that there are many ways to solve a problem (not just one as those who are taught with the algorithm come to believe) and respect the perspectives of others
- students learn from each other and even learn to critique the work of others as they explain their strategies
- working on thinking strategically through number talks unlocks the ability to solve problems children would never have previously thought they could! I have asked children who have memorized their math facts to solve 4 x 12 and they have told me, “I haven’t learned that one yet.” When I ask students who have had number talks to solve 4 x 12, they immediately begin thinking about how they can figure it out…and they have a couple of ways of doing it!
- students are given the opportunity to make connections between topics that would never have happened when focusing only on an algorithmic way of solving problems….one 4th grade classroom I work in was working on the angles within a circle. When we did a number talk for 45 x 16, one student answered 720 pretty quickly. He explained that since he knew there were 8-45 degree angles in a circle, 16 would be 2 circles worth of degrees. Amazing!
- number talks allow me to talk to students about having a growth mindset (I love Carol Dweck and Jo Boaler’s work on this!)….students know that if they make a mistake when trying out a new strategy they are growing their brains!
- students can enter the activity at their readiness level – if I give 7 + 8, students who are still counting on can solve it…but it also allows students who realize a doubles plus/minus 1 strategy could be used or even students who take some away from the other number to make a 10 are all successful and respected!
My favorite reason?
- Pure magic! I’ve never experienced anything like it!