Sunday, June 10, 2012

Number Talks

Well, it's summer and that is usually my time I try and read up on some great teaching strategies I can implement for next school year. Our school bought us the book Number Talks by Sherry Parrish.  I have to admit, I've had it on my shelf at school for a couple of months....... I decided to pick it up today and start reading. One of my collegues heard of this book through our county trainings and we quickly grabbed it up.

The best part about this book is that it comes with videos of  REAL classrooms and REAL teachers implementing the strategies discussed. I'm totally hooked but a little nerveous. As I read through this book I want to give you all an idea of the purpose and ideas in this book.  Just as a disclaimer, I haven't been asked to promote this book...I just love the ideas and wanted to. :)

Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies, Grades K-5

Number Talks.....
* Get away from standard algorithm
* Students defend their answers with strategies
* Reasoning & proof
* Connections between problems
* Fluency doesn't mean timed tests
* Mental Math
* Talk, talk, talk, talk.....

This list goes on.....

Here is the first idea I zoned in on...."Weekly Computation Assessment".  I thought.. "Okay...that's what I've beeing doing.  You know the traditional 100 problem timed test for each multiplication table..pass one to get to the next."  But that's not it at all.  The computation test talked about in this book is completely different.  Let me explain...

Weekly Computation Assessment should be 5-10 problems that are similar to the ones used during the number talks that have taken place during the week. Students are required to solve and defend problems in more that one way to show accuracy and critical thinking in the approach they take in solving. The thinking goes much deeper than just a single digit multiplied to a single digit. In the end students will be able to do more with this approach.

So do I completely get rid of the traditional timed test? To be honest that scares me a bit, because how do you explain that to parents? I'm not sure if I want to take that huge plunge or just try and incorporate both. Eeeeeek! Baby steps...

Here is an example:

7 x 12

Skip Counting

7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 49, 56, 63, 70, 77, 84

Partial Product

7 x 12 = 7 x (10 + 2)
7 x 10 = 70
7 x 2 = 14
70 + 14 = 84

Using Known Facts

2x12 = 24
2x12 = 24
2x12 = 24
            72 + 12 = 84

At the beginning I know I'll have to really help the students make the connections. I can't wait to see what this blossoms into. Little do my own children know but they are about to be my little "Number Talk" experiments this summer.  Look for some examples to come your way of what we do this summer to get them ready for 4th and 6th grades.



  1. I worked with Sherry Parrish on math committees when she worked in my school system. She is FABULOUS. Our entire school system uses this approach. If you like this, you should check into the Investigations math program. I think Pearson is the company that sells it. Both of these styles of teaching will change how you think about how math should be taught and how children best understand number sense. Marilyn Burns books follow these same learning principles. Check them out, tool

    1. That is awesome that you were able to work with Sherry! I can't wait to try out the strategies mentioned in her book. :) I'm already hooke beyond measure.

  2. I'm putting this resource on my book list! Looks great.

    Yearn to Learn Blog

  3. Hi -

    I am planning on doing a book study on this over the summer beginning on May 27th. Would you be interested in joining me?

    Think, Wonder, & Teach


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