A Review of Making Number Talks Matter

Mark Ray, Sun Prairie, WI

If you have yet to experience an invigorating feeling after completing a CPM workshop, then read Making Number Talks Matter by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker.  Within the first pages you will be hooked!  Very quickly it becomes clear that number talks are as much a way to improve number fluency, as they are to develop student ownership of mathematical thinking.  With sustained effort, this process can have a number of positive impacts on student academic mindsets, number fluency, and strategies to think about math differently.

The first thirty-six pages reinforce the philosophical and pedagogical foundation of number talks.  An emphasis on student voice and student thinking are at the cornerstone of this foundation.  Parker states, “I’ve come to believe that my job is not to teach my students to see what I see.  My job is to teach them to see.”  Teachers must maintain a role that elicits student thought without making assumptions of their own.  Teachers must interpret and react to student thought in a way that keeps the focus on the student.  The authors suggest this may be challenging, but assert that over time it creates an environment where students’ sense of belonging and value in math are positive.

Once Humphreys and Parker set the educational guidelines, the middle chapters focus on subtraction, multiplication, addition, and division of integers as well as fractions, decimals, and percent.  These chapters may sound quite familiar as they mimic a CPM Suggested Lesson Activity in some ways.  Numerous examples of problems are provided to get you started, along with questions you may ask (pocket questions).  However, Making Number Talks Matter takes it a step further and provides the predictable strategies students may use along with many vignettes of number talks to help form our understanding of what a number talk may look like.  For example, when using the problem 5 –  (–3) students may use the “Same Difference” strategy (described in the book) to evaluate. Changing the problem to 5 + 3 – (–3 + 3) = 8 –  (0) creates a problem with the same difference but easier to evaluate.  These types of number fluency strategies are reinforced over the “traditional algorithms” typically taught in early grades.

The final three chapters discuss typical problems, FAQs, testimonials of success, and how number talks can spark investigations.  All are refreshing to read including the potential for investigations, not necessarily because number talks will create new investigations, but because CPM already offers incredible investigative lessons that number talks will easily complement.

If you are looking for a way to increase student discourse, improve student mindsets, or simply to improve number fluency reading Making Number Talks Matter by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker may offer the inspiration you need.

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Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

The Building on Instructional Practice Series consists of three different events – Building on Discourse, Building on Assessment, Building on Equity – that are designed for teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM instructional materials and who have completed the Foundations for Implementation Series.

Building on Equity

In Building on Equity, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Essential questions include: How do I shift dependent learners into independent learners? How does my own math identity and cultural background impact my classroom? The focus of day one is equitable classroom culture. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture. The focus of day two and three is implementing equitable tasks. Participants will develop their use of the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Meaningful Mathematical Discussions and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will use an equity lens to reflect on and revise their Chapter 1 lesson plans.

Building on Assessment

In Building on Assessment, participants will apply assessment research and develop methods to provide feedback to students and inform equitable assessment decisions. On day one, participants will align assessment practices with learning progressions and the principle of mastery over time as well as write assessment items. During day two, participants will develop rubrics, explore alternate types of assessment, and plan for implementation that supports student ownership. On the third day, participants will develop strategies to monitor progress and provide evidence of proficiency with identified mathematics content and practices. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

In Building on Discourse, participants will improve their ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rich tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices incorporated through intentional and reflective planning.