Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Number Talks

Has your child mentioned "Number Talks" to you? I have a few students this year who I'm pretty sure look forward to this 10 minutes of the day more than any other time.  If they've mentioned it, let me explain it a bit further. You can have your own number talks at home, using all sorts of manipulatives around the house.  Cereal? Coins? (Clean) Socks? Whatever you want to count!

So, number talks are a pretty big thing in the classroom, and I've got to admit that I haven't been the best at them in the past.  I've always done them, but typically I use dot plates and don't have quite as much of a discussion about the answers as I should.

Here's what a good number talk looks like:

The kids are ready. They have their fist in the middle of their chest, which lets me know I can show the first slide.

Then they see some dots.
If they can tell me how many dots they see, they change their fist to a thumbs-up symbol. Using a quiet symbol prevents kids from raising their hand when they don't know the answer because they feel pressure.

Then I call on someone to share how many dots they see.  I record his/her answer.
Then I ask if anyone else saw the dots a different way. You can see some of the combinations below:

Now, in this particular example, everyone was on the ball and got the answers right. That doesn't always happen, but I didn't want to post a picture where some of the more absurd answers were listed.  Believe me, sometimes you'll get something like "2 and 4 and 9 and 11 and 1" and you smile, a bit panicked, as you record that answer.  Or you get answers that are only off by 1, like "6 dots" instead of "5 dots."  

The great thing about number talks is you get to see math reasoning. I had one slide that showed three dots, and I had a child say "12." Of course, the dots were arranged such that there was one dot on the left and two dots on the right. 1 and 2. 12. It wasn't the right answer, but I understood how he got there.

Once we've recorded the initial answer, students can raise their hands to show they have a different way of seeing the dots.

This is such an important precursor to addition and subtraction.  It really helps students see the value of a number.  So, hand your kid a few Cheerios. Ask him how many there are. Then ask him if he can see the same amount in a different combination.

Happy counting!

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