Today was the day that I was going to “do something different” based on all the learning I did with Cathy Fosnot last week. I sat down carefully on Sunday night and planned out the Number Strings I wanted to do each day this week.
I started with this goal: Guide my students to discover the Big Idea of “Part/Whole relationships”. I feel like this is one thing we can work on in our Number Talk time that will help everyone understand numbers a little bit better, and help us understanding adding and subtracting. I also feel that too many of my grade 2s are still having trouble counting on from a whole number, and are struggling with hierarchical inclusion. There’s is too much “counting 3 times” and starting at 1 every time something is counted.
I started with 4+3 = on the board. Through conversations, we ended up with this:
So far, so good, right? One of my grade 3 students said he’d found the double then added in the “extra” one. Right there I thought this is the difference between Number Talks and Number Strings. I could have written more problems that let everyone practice the “find the double” strategy. But I was really looking for the “part/whole relationship”. We started talking about other ways we could make four. I made a list.
I was so determined to stay focused on my goal!! But then someone mentioned 3 + 1, even though we had 1+3 and we had to talk about that. HAD TO! I mean, really, I thought, “What would Cathy Fosnot do??” and I decided she’d explore that AMAZING discovery that someone had just made. I had to ask, “Wait…you mean I can just reverse the two numbers I’m adding and still get the same answer?!” I added that thinking to the board, complete with a name label, and then had to ask the next question: “Will that work every time??” We tried out a few examples and decided that yes, it would for addition, but no, it would not for subtraction.
Here’s something I have decided: The goal doesn’t have to be completed in just one day. I have the whole week to explore part/whole relationships. And maybe it’s stretching it out over a few days that really helps the kids to see some ideas. I could have easily turned this into a full 1 hour conversation. But after 10 minutes people start to get restless and stop really listening, so I ended it. We’ll pick it up again tomorrow.
One of the things that really struck me in Cathy’s lesson on Saturday was that she displays all three parts of her conversations (the question, the model and the conjectures) at once. One is not behind the other. She said that this way kids can see all three and each helps to strengthen the other. This is one of the main things I want to really do this week (and beyond.) I am going to start to do these talks on the large white board instead of the small one so I have room for everything. I also, as you may have already thought when you looked at my pictures, need to make sure I am organizing this better as I go. But I’m okay with admitting this is going to take some practice.