I hadn’t decided yet if I wanted to start off by making this sound like I am a genius (which I totally am!) or if I was going to list all the sources of this idea and talk about how they converged into this seemingly-original idea. But then I listened one morning this week to a podcast from Derek Rodenizer on voice.ed radio. (You can listen to it here. It’s only 5 minutes!) He posted this graphic later on Twitter:
That podcast made me realize that this Number Talk idea was just that – an example of how sharpening my pedagogical sword gave me an idea that wasn’t/isn’t truly mine but is me knowing a bunch of stuff and then putting it all together and coming up with something different.
The “Introducing Multiplication” unit by Marilyn Burns starts with an activity where students are asked to work with partners to make posters about numbers. Specifically, students are supposed to write down things that come in 2’s, or 4’s or 7’s, etc. So this is partly that idea. If you look on Pinterest under “math activities” you’re sure to see art projects students have made where they have written down all the ways to write a number, or what the number means to them. (If you don’t know what I am talking about, look at this.) This is partly that idea too.
On the first day of school, I told my new students I was going to write a number on the board and they were going to tell me everything that number made them think or remember. I then talked to them about how we put our thumb on our chest to show we have an idea, and that they could take as much time as they needed because math is not a race. I wrote a 2 on the board.
I am not exaggerating when I say we talked about this for probably 15 minutes. Here is our result:
It was so interesting and, I thought, successful that I couldn’t wait to do it for the rest of the week. Here are our results:
I do not think it is a coincidence that we got more information for 2 and 5 than we did for 23. This is a grade 2/3 class and most of the ideas on 23 came from the 3’s. Also, there aren’t a lot of every day things, like bike wheels and toes, that come in 12’s and 23’s.
There were some common themes: each day they wanted to talk about someone who was the age that matched the number. They know people who are 2, 5 and 12 – mostly siblings. But 23 is too young to be one of their parents, and too old to be a friend or sibling (for most.) When we talked about 23 as an age, it was clear they don’t really know what 23 years-old looks like. They guessed that I am 23, which I totally look like I am but I am not. They then guessed that our principal is 23, which is what she actually looks like (no this is not an evaluation year for me.) We settled on “Justin Bieber and college students” after some discussion. Everyone finally agreed that a 23 year-old is a “young grown-up”. But I think many of them are still not 100% clear on this idea.
My original goal was to start using Number Talk routines – mainly the one with the thumbs up instead of hands up. I also wanted to start talking about them building on each other’s ideas, which they did. I was busy building routines, not taking notes. But I still feel like I got some important information from some of my new students. This will help me going forward. I had originally planned on doing dot-number talks for the week. I have already prepared slides to use for this using Smart Notebook software, even though I do not have a SmartBoard in my class. I kind of chickened out because the tech-gremlins have been busy at my school over the summer and things were randomly not working. I didn’t want to start off my school year muttering curses at them while repeatedly jabbing buttons. I’ve saved that for the coming week just to give myself something to look forward to!
To read more about how a dot number talk can be used to start the year, check out this great blog post! https://heidiallum.wordpress.com/2017/09/09/the-power-of-dot-number-talks/