Bragging On My Son….

My first grade son was doing his homework this afternoon, and he was knocking out double-digit addition  problems mentally and not even breaking a sweat. It was AMAZING to watch. I was so enthralled that I asked him to explain his process and I took dictation as he spoke:

“So I took the 40 and the 30 and I knew it was 70. Then I took the 7 and the 8 and I knew it was 15. Then I knew that 70 and 15 equaled 85.”

The “quick tens” were added after he calculated the answer.


“So I just took the 53 and 27 and added the 7 to the 3. I knew it equaled 60. I took the 2 and it was 20 and put it with the 60 and I knew it equaled 80.”

“Because I knew 8 and 8 made 16 and I knew 3 and 4 were 30 and 40 so that’s 70. So I added the 16 to the 70 and I knew it equaled 86.”

“So I knew 3 and 5 made 8 so I just took the 50 and 40 and knew it equaled 90. Then I took the 8 and the 90 and I knew it equaled 98.”

Props (and hugs) to his teacher!

Number Talks

I’m always trying to think forward, and I know that one of the things I need to spend more time on in my classes is number talks and meta cognitive reflections. I googled “number talks” and found this website by Fawn Nguyen (I love you Fawn! Your blog makes me laugh AND love teaching math even more!) and decided to try something along those lines (slight modifications). Each day I made up some warm-up question to post (always related to the content) and gave students time to solve individually. I feel this individual time is important because too often one person in a twosome will just let the other person do all the thinking and work. The STRUGGLE is where the learning takes place. (Some of my classes were better at this than others, but hey! It takes training!). Then we came back together for a whole class discussion (I may start with pairs before whole class after spring break–not sure yet). The important part here was for me to REFRAIN from telling them they were right or wrong. My most used phrase during this phase of the talks was, “What do you guys think?” And they were truly willing to share what they thought! The essential piece was the NUMEROUS ways students had for solving just ONE problem. It was awesome. The math vibes were rockin’ the room.

I encourage the use of conversation frames when students speak out in class. It serves two purposes: 1) the students have to speak positively with each other and me, and 2) the students have to speak in complete sentences (which is a lost skill in my opinion).

Students also have to take notes during the whole class discussion phase so they can refer back to different methods during the reflection writing on Friday. (I used Fawn’s reflection prompt, but I may modify in the future…not sure yet.)

Here are some of my take aways from the number talks during week 1:

1) As the talk went on, it became increasingly clear that my 7th graders had not mastered ratios and proportions. Reteach time!

2) From the written reflections on Friday:
“I feel like I kinda have a good grasp on what we are doing because it’s really starting to get easy and by it being easy I can guide others through it.”

“I feel like I have learned a lot more from when we first started. I feel like it’s been good because we have been sharing other peoples thoughts and explanations for the problem.”

“This week was fairly good. I have a good grasp on proportions because we spent a lot of time with them.”

“I do feel like I have a good grasp on what we are doing because with all of the different ways that are shown to do the problem I can pick the method I like or choose a different one.”

3) I need to make sure the problems I give my students actually work out to a solution or solutions. However, this being said, when it became apparent one of the problems I made up this week was missing some valuable information, we were able to turn it around and have a valuable discussion–what’s wrong with this problem? Missing information? Ok, what do you need to know to solve it? Are you absolutely sure this problem isn’t solvable as is? If not, how could we change it so it could be solved?

I would love feedback and your ideas! What do YOU do to foster discussion and essential problem-solving skills in your classroom?