Building Students with Math Power: Using Math Routines to Transform Your Classroom

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for a while, you know that I strive to not only help students master grade level content and skills but to provide them with the tools they need to be productive contributors to our world. With this in mind, there are two routines that I begin teaching during the first weeks of school that I want to highlight today– math talk and number talks. I’ve written about these two routines on this blog before and I have guest-blogged about them on Rachel Lynette’s Minds in Bloom, so today I want to provide you with a new way to “see” them in action– through videos.

Math Talk

Math Talk is a powerful way to increase your students’ critical thinking and communication skills and a way to get your students thinking and communicating mathematically from the very first days of school. In order for math talk to be successful though, students must understand how to collaborate fairly and hold a respectful exchange of ideas. This is where routines enter the picture. Students must be taught how to do this as it is not something that comes naturally to them.

I love the thinking illustrated here and would have liked to see a little more interaction between the students who were presenting their strategies and the rest of the class, but this gives you an excellent example of the math power these students have when they communicate mathematically.

Here are some questions to consider after watching the video:

1. What ground work has to be done and expectations set to create an environment in which students are comfortable sharing their thinking?
2. What are the advantages of having students share different strategies for solving problems?
3. How does the teacher validate each student’s contribution?

Read more about what effective math talk looks and sounds like here.

Number Talks

Number Talks is a classroom routine that is gaining much popularity with educators across the country. While I have been unknowingly using some form of a “number talk” for years, I was intrigued by a book written by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker titled, Making Number Talks Matter. A number talk is a daily routine that requires students to demonstrate flexibility in working with numbers and solving basic problems without using paper and pencil to find the solution.

I’ve selected two videos to illustrate number talks in action. The first video is from a third grade classroom and the second video is from a fourth/fifth grade classroom. They’re both about 15 minutes each, so you may want to choose the video that is most relevant for you.

Multiplication Strategies for Larger Numbers- Fourth and Fifth Grade

Here are some questions to consider after watching the video:

1. What ground work has to be done and expectations set to create an environment in which students are comfortable sharing their thinking?
2. What are the advantages of having students share different strategies for solving problems?
3. What is the teacher’s role?