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.