Tag Archives: Cathy Humphreys

PD Planning: Number Talks and Number Strings

As we begin the second part of our school year and as the calendar changes from 2016 to 2017, we review our goals.

The leaders of our math committee set the following goals for this school year.

Goals:

  • Continue our work on vertical alignment.
  • Expand our knowledge of best practices and their role in our current program.
  • Share work with grade level teams to grow our whole community as teachers of math.
  • Raise the level of teacher confidence in math.
  • Deepen, differentiate, and extend learning for the students in our classrooms.

Our latest action step works on scaling these goals in our community. The following shows our plan to build common understanding and language as we expand our knowledge of numeracy.  Over the course of two days, each math teacher (1st-6th grade) participated in 3-hours of professional learning.

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Sample timestamp from PD sessions.

Our intentions and purpose:

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We started with a number talk and a number string from Kristin Gray‘s NCTM Philadelphia presentation. We challenged ourselves to anticipate the ways our learners answer the following.

kristingraynumbertalk

We also referred to Making Number Talks Matter to find Humphreys and Parker’s four strategies for multiplication.  We pressed ourselves to anticipate more than one way for each multiplication strategy to align with Smith and Stein’s 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions.

Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 7.23.12 PM.pngFrom our earlier work with Lisa Eickholdt, we know that our ability to talk about a strategy directly impacts our ability to teach the strategy.  What can be learned if we show what we know more than one way? How might we learn from each other if we make our thinking visible?

Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 8.46.22 PM.pngAfter working through Humphreys and Parker’s strategies (and learning new strategies), we transitioned to the number string from Kristin‘s presentation.

Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 7.41.14 PM.pngThe goal for the next part of the learning session offered teaching teams the opportunity to select a number string from one of the Minilessons books shown below.  Each team selected a number string and worked to anticipate according to Smith and Stein’s 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions.

To practice, each team practiced their number string and the other grade-level teams served as learners.  When we share and learn together, we strengthen our understanding of how to differentiate and learn deeply.

Deep learning focuses on recognizing relationships among ideas. During deep learning, students engage more actively and deliberately with information in order to discover and understand the underlying mathematical structure.
—John Hattie, Doug Fisher, Nancy Frey

As we begin the second part of our school year and as the calendar changes from 2016 to 2017, what action steps are needed to reach our goals?


Hattie, John A. (Allan); Fisher, Douglas B.; Frey, Nancy; Gojak, Linda M.; Moore, Sara Delano; Mellman, William L. (2016-09-16). Visible Learning for Mathematics, Grades K-12: What Works Best to Optimize Student Learning (Corwin Mathematics Series) (p. 136). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

Humphreys, Cathy; Parker, Ruth (2015-04-21). Making Number Talks Matter (Kindle Locations 1265-1266). Stenhouse Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Norris, Kit; Schuhl, Sarah (2016-02-16). Engage in the Mathematical Practices: Strategies to Build Numeracy and Literacy With K-5 Learners (Kindle Locations 4113-4115). Solution Tree Press. Kindle Edition.

Smith, Margaret Schwan., and Mary Kay. Stein. 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2011. Print.

Fluency: comprehension, accuracy, flexibility, and efficiency

No strategy is efficient for a student who does not yet understand it. (Humphreys & Parker, 27 pag.)

If both sense and meaning are present, the likelihood of the new information getting encoded into longterm memory is very high. (Sousa, 28 pag.)

When we teach for understanding we want comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and efficiency. If we are efficient but have no firm understanding or foundation, is learning – encoding into longterm memory – happening?

We don’t mean to imply that efficiency is not important. Together with accuracy and flexibility, efficiency is a hallmark of numerical fluency. (Humphreys & Parker, 28 pag.)

What if we make I can make sense of problems and persevere in solving them and I can demonstrate flexibility essential to learn?

SMP-1-MakeSensePersevere

Flexibility #LL2LU

If we go straight for efficiency in multiplication, how will our learners overcome following commonly known misconception?

common misconception: (a+b)²=a² +b²

multiplication_flexibility

correct understanding: (a+b)²=a² +2ab+b²

The strategies we teach, the numeracy that we are building, impacts future understanding.  We teach for understanding. We want comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and efficiency.

How might we learn to show what we know more than one way? What if we learn to understand using words, pictures, and numbers?

What if we design learning episodes for sense making and flexibility?


Humphreys, Cathy, and Ruth E. Parker. Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding, Grades 4-10. Portland, ME: Steinhouse Publishers, 2015. Print.

Sousa, David A. Brain-Friendly Assessments: What They Are and How to Use Them. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning Sciences, 2014. Print.

Number Talks: how AND why

Listening informs questioning. (Berger, 98 pag.)

How do we know learning has occurred? How do we know how learning has happened? What if we pause and listen to learn?

If both sense and meaning are present, the likelihood of the new information getting encoded into longterm memory is very high. (Sousa, 28 pag.)

How would you add 39 to 67? Would you use the traditional algorithm? Would you need paper? How might we teach flexibility, sense making, and numeracy to build fluency and confidence?

Number talks are about students making sense of their own mathematical ideas. (Humphrey & Parker, 13 pag.)

How might we seize the opportunity to confer with our learners to see if they are making sense of what is being taught?

This is the challenge – and joy – of teaching by listening to students. (Humphrey & Parker, 13 pag.)

If interested in additional examples of number talks, both the how and the why, listen to Jo Boaler and her students from the Stanford Online MOOC How to Learn Math: For Teachers and Parents.

Do we believe our learners – every one of them – are capable of developing proficiency in mathematics?

How might we show what we know more than one way?

How might we continue to send the message I believe in you and mean it?

What if we listen to learn?


I am grateful to Kristin Gray (@MathMinds) and Crystal Morey (@themathdancer) for their leadership and facilitation as a dozen #TrinityLearns faculty participate in an online book club (#mNTmTch) for Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding Grades 4-10 along with over 600 educators across the globe.


Berger, Warren (2014-03-04). A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas . BLOOMSBURY PUBLISHING. Kindle Edition.

Humphreys, Cathy, and Ruth E. Parker. Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding, Grades 4-10. Portland, ME: Steinhouse Publishers, 2015. Print.

Sousa, David A. Brain-Friendly Assessments: What They Are and How to Use Them. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning Sciences, 2014. Print.

Flexibility and sense-making to build confidence and long-term memory

In his TEDxSonomaCounty talk, The Myth of Average, Todd Rose (@ltoddrose) challenges us to consider and act to leverage simple solutions that will improve the performance of our learners and dramatically expand our talent pool.  (If you’ve not seen his talk, it is worth stopping to  watch the 18.5 minute message before reading on.)

There are far too many students who feel like they are no good at math because they aren’t quick to get right answers. (Humphreys & Parker, 9 pag.)

Efficiency must not trump understanding.  How often do we remember the foundation once we’ve mastered “the short cut?” Were we ever taught the foundation – the why – or were we only taught to memorize procedures that got to an answer quickly?

Of course, students must be able to compute flexibly, efficiently, and accurately. But they also need to explain their reasoning and determine if the ideas they’re using and the results they’re getting make sense. (Humphreys & Parker, 8 pag.)

How might we design and implement practices that help our young learners make sense of what they are learning?  In Brain-Friendly Assessments: What They Are and How to Use Them, David Sousa explains how necessary sense-making and meaning are to transfer information from working memory into long-term memory.

The brain is more likely to store information if it makes sense and has meaning. (Sousa, 28 pag.)

Dr. Sousa continues:

We should not be measuring just content acquisition. Rather, we should be discovering the ways students can process and manipulate their knowledge and skills to deal with new problems and issues associated with what they have learned.  (Sousa, 28 pag.)

The first chapter of Making Number Talks Matter highlights the importance of number talks.  We want our young learners to develop flexibility and confidence working with numbers.

Listen to Ruth Parker and Cathy Humphreys discuss Number talks:

From Jo Boaler’s How to Learn Math: for Students:

…we know that what separates high achievers from low achievers is not that high achievers know more math, it is that they interact with numbers flexibly and low achievers don’t.

What if we take action on behalf of our young learners?  What if we offer multiple pathways for success?

How might we dramatically expand our talent pool?


I am grateful to Kristin Gray (@MathMinds) and Crystal Morey (@themathdancer) for their leadership and facilitation as a dozen #TrinityLearns faculty participate in an online book club (#mNTmTch) for Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding Grades 4-10 along with over 600 educators across the globe.


Humphreys, Cathy, and Ruth E. Parker. Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding, Grades 4-10. Portland, ME: Steinhouse Publishers, 2015. Print.

Sousa, David A. Brain-Friendly Assessments: What They Are and How to Use Them. West Palm Beach, FL: Learning Sciences, 2014. Print.