Two years ago I began confronting my mathematical instructional practices and shifting my classroom. One of the first people, who challenged many of my deeply held thoughts, was Ruth Parker. Ruth modeled with a group of adults (in the MEC-MSP project in conjunction with OSPI) how to empower thinking, engage in true mathematical discourse and process rich tasks. It was in this workshop that I first experienced Ruth leading a group of educators in a number talk.
Like any human being, I have some qualities that aren’t necessarily positive. One of my flaws is that I can get too narrowly focused and fail to see other perspectives, especially in the world of mathematics. Number Talks began opening my eyes to how many different ways people saw the same problem. It also opened my thinking to efficient strategies I could use (based upon the strategies the group was using). I began thinking more flexibly about math (which also transposed to issues in life). This wasn’t just happening during class, it was happening while I was at the grocery store, shopping for clothes, creating my budget, etc. I was having internal number talks all the time.
Through the experience in the workshop, I had a taste of number talks but had so many more questions. Thankfully, almost on cue, Ruth Parker and Cathy Humphreys were authoring a book called Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practice and Deepening Understanding in Grades 4-10. This book introduces the reader to a much needed conversation on mathematical operations and flexible thinking.
Number talks have transformed my classroom. I hear students using strategies they were introduced to during number talks, throughout other tasks. Last year, it wasn’t until I heard students with an IEP in Mathematics, talking a number talk out loud, on their own, during a different task that I began to really see the power.
Now, in my current role as both 6th grade math teacher and Teaching Channel Laureate, I get to engage with teachers across the country in conversations around mathematics through a Making Number Talks Matter book study. The book study will officially start on October 5th and will last for 11 weeks. It is free! There is an information sheet linked for you to find out how to get signed up and started in each of the formats available. I will be co-leading the study with Kristin Gray, fellow Teaching Channel Laureate, K-5 Math Specialist and author of the blog Math Minds
My classroom will be filmed and I will be broadcasting it to you. I want your help, as you read the book, in helping me celebrate what is working and how I can get even better. I deeply honor reflective practice and input from colleagues. I want to model openness and honesty to all of you. I hope you, your PLC, school and/or district will join this venture as we “get better together!”
- Making Number Talks Matter Information Page
- Making Number Talks Matter Registration Form
- Teaching Channel Homepage
Check out Kristin’s Number Talk journey here.