I was fortunate to attend a workshop with Ruth Parker of Number Talks. If you need an overview of this engaging and important math routine, here is blog post to help. This is the original PDF file from Ruth Parker that isn’t available right now ( PDF file).
I find Number Talks very powerful, but unfortunately it’s not quite a routine during math time, but after this workshop I’m dedicated to implement it at least 2-4 times a week, and I think I’m going to do it at the end of the day, the last 10-15 minutes, so it gives me a cut off time.
During the workshop, I realized that I have diluted and altered the original intent of Number Talks and she reminded us of some things to avoid during Number Talks. The goal is to provide a safe place for students to think things through. I’m guilty of some of these, so I’m grateful to get the information straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
- Finishing students’ thoughts for them. This goes for both me and the other students. A phrase I’m going to use is “Please let ____ do his/her own thinking.”
- Sanctioning of ideas. I need to keep a poker face and be neutral.
- Hand signals or other signs of agreement. I’m guilty of teaching kids to give an “I agree” sign. Ruth says that this takes away from the safe zone. For example, if a student thinks they come up with a unique answer, after much thinking, and then immediately the other students agree, then the student might not think they had such a unique idea and might not be so willing to to share in the future.
- Turn and Talks. Ruth said that if everyone is required to talk, this also puts pressure on some students and interferes with the safe zone. She said it’s fine though if students have a choice to share or not.
- Rescuing students. This goes with the first tip. Students need to give plenty of time to think through their solutions. So helping and interrupting them cuts this off. I need to be patient.
- Determining the right answer together. I need to let students make the discovery with me interpreting and recording their thoughts, nothing more.
- Agreeing on what strategy is most efficient. This also places judgement and if a student doesn’t agree, then they don’t feel safe.
Students need to play with numbers. They need a chance to think and explain their thinking. Number Talks is a sure and well thought out structure for this. I’m committed to do this! Please let me know your thoughts if you regularly use Number Talks!