So, I’m starting out today with a pop quiz. Ha ha. What do the following number sentences have in common? NO calculators!
They all equal 120, don’t they? Do you see why? Each of the expressions is really just another way to write 15 x 8. The numbers 15 and 8 have been broken down into smaller factors in each of the expressions. Rich problem sets such as this one are the basis for number talks in the classroom.
Our district purchased Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies as a professional development resource for the campus instructional coaches. What a gem! Now, it doesn’t appear to be a friendly book at first glance. In fact, several coaches said they found it intimidating. That’s why I would suggest starting with the DVD–look at some of the video clips and you’ll be hooked! I have been modeling number talks in our 3-5 classrooms, and it’s a blast. Click on the picture below to view a video clip of a number talk in a 3rd grade classroom.
Number talks, as described in this particular book, are short–10-15 minute- warm-up activities focusing on mental math strategies. The book includes a great section describing what number talks are and how to use them in the classroom, and then the rest of the book is organized by grade levels–explaining what number talks look like at each grade level and providing pages with problem sets that can be used to promote certain strategies.
Now, I want you to think carefully about the title of the book–Number TALKS. Who is doing the talking? If you said the teacher, you’d be wrong! The kiddos are the star of this show. Basically, this is another one of those situations where you don’t teach–the kiddos discover! Your job is to plan problem sets that will lead them toward a particular strategy (and they’re included in the book), scribe their thinking, and facilitate new learning.
Here’s my testimonial. You might think your students won’t have the strategies that the kids in the video use. Let me tell you, they will surprise you! I have never seen students more engaged and excited about math than I have when I’m doing number talks. And the speed of the results shocked me! In just a couple weeks time, students became much more confident in their strategies and grew in their ability to explain their mathematical thinking. A teacher in one of the video clips states that she has walked through a door, and she will never go back. I can guarantee that you will feel that way, too!
Can you tell I like number talks? 🙂