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Beatriz’s Number Talk

Every once and awhile a conversation happens to you that is beyond amazing. I was really lucky and that happened Monday of last week. One of the teachers who was attending the workshop came back from lunch early. We started chatting, and the amazing conversation just appeared.

I have been trying some of the Number Talks you shared with us last year. My kids are amazing. I can’t believe how much they all contribute when we do a number talk, and not just some kids, but all of my kids. This is what I have been doing and what do you think I should do next.

We talked about her work, the kids’ work, what she was learning about her kids, and how much confidence they were building. We talked about how she might go about stretching her kids’ thinking a bit more. This is the very best kind of conversation, when the magic happens, because we were talking about how to encourage kids.

The very next day, this photo appeared in my inbox.

Number Talks Practice

Beatriz’s awesome kids’ thinking all right there.

Number Talks by Sherry Parrish is book about “helping children build mental math and computation strategies”. I first ran across the book about 4 and a half years ago, and have shared it and recommended it everywhere I work. It describes an incredible process and routine to use with kids that cultivates awesome results: flexible thinking, confidence in their own ideas and strategies, and a classroom community of mathematicians.

It is a beautifully simple set of steps that produces amazing results: select a strategy and a set of expressions from the book, write down one of the expressions, ask kids to think about what the answer is and what strategy/strategies they used, ask them to share their answers, and, then, ask them to explain how they found the answer (you record their strategies). You want to collect and record ideas from 3 or 4 kids. Now comes the best part, the class talks about their ideas.

Number Talks is a great resource that includes the how-to, descriptions of strategies for each of the operations, examples of how to model kids’ thinking, pages and pages of a day’s worth of expressions, commentary from teachers and the author, and a dvd that offers glimpses into classrooms of kids and teachers using number talks as part of their daily work.

Back to Beatriz. We worked together earlier in the year. One of the pieces we worked on is how to get kids to talk in math class. We used the Number Talks book in the conversation with her grade level at her school. She took it from there. And her kids are doing amazing work–all because their teacher believed that they could.

We all need to work with people like Beatriz who create magic for kids every day.