Number Talks PD
I’ve gone through a little professional development for Number Talks, but today we spent 6 hours diving into understanding its components, analyzing and discussing a common routine from which to work as a district group, and practicing structure from planning through implementation to reflection. Walking away, I felt a better understanding of how a Number Talk should look. The leaders, Brian Bushart and Regina Payne, explained how the purpose of these conversations isn’t to improve concept comprehension, though there are aha moments within, but instead to gain computational fluency. How did I miss this essential attribute? Yet, during the demos and student (teacher) practice, I could see how deeply learning occurs through such a seemingly simple discussion. In practice, students can understand how to apply subitizing, relationships, patterns, and realize how to efficiently solve problems in a reasonable manner.
Questions asked by the teacher seemed intuitive: how did you think about this, does this look like an earlier expression, does anyone have a different strategy? Yet listening to how to model the student’s thinking was new to me. The idea is to listen to the students as they are talking to their partners about how they came to their answer. From this, the teacher may selectively invite specific students to present efficient, varied strategies, focus on one or two strategies, including answers that are not correct, to both honor the thinking and the student, as well as allow the students to learn from one another. The teacher gains important information about individual students while the children are truly thinking about numbers, learning how to explain their ideas, and how to speak in a collaborative, constructive, respectful manner. What a treasure from only 10 – 15 minutes of routine class time.
We were introduced to the book which provided much of the background to this idea: Making Number Talks Matter by Cathy Humphreys. It is one route you can go to learn more about Number Talks independently, but I recommend a personal workshop in your district if possible. There was better clarity to watch it in action and discuss the steps of a number talk.
You can discover more about all things elementary math from Brian Stockus at his blog: Teaching to the Beat of a Different Drummer. On Twitter, you can find him @bstockus
Regina Payne’s blog can be found here: Regina Rocks: A Mathematical Journey to Change the World. I’m not sure if her twitter account is for public viewing, but I’ll keep you posted.
Check their blogs out – it’s worth exploration. Oh, and today’s tech site of exploration: desmos.com. In the classroom activities, you can create math questions for students to answer and explain their thinking after they enter a join code, then display the answers as a group anonymously for discussion. Most applications seem to be for fourth grade and up, but a tech savvy teacher could play to create an activity for lower grades. Try it – can’t beat free, it’s the best in teacher collaboration.