Being Taught to Teach


Math Talks
February 17, 2012, 5:04 am
Filed under: Student Teaching

In our math course at Mills, Edcuation 303, we are learning all about Math Talks and how to make math exciting and accessible to our students.  Math Talks are to help students realize what they already know about numbers, make connections and hear what others have to say about numbers.

Richard Skemp wrote an article that we read addressing the important distinctions between instrumental and relational math knowledge.  After reading and reflecting on our own educations many of us realized that we had learned math instrumentally, meaning that we had memorized formulas or steps to plug in when we saw the right wording for it, but did not know how it really tied together or why we did it.

Have you ever asked a child to tell you (or write down) everything they know about a certain number?  You should, it is fascinating.  It gives you so much insight into what they are thinking.  The 100th day of school is a big deal to kids and schools nowadays, I don’t remember celebrating it as a child, but to prepare for that I introduced my students to Math Talks on Monday.  We started as a group on the rug and talked about the number 10.  I gave them some types of examples like sentences and equations, but did not want to influence their answers too much.  The students were asked to think in quietly and after a few moments to share with a partner in a whisper voice.  This gave students who did not have an idea a chance to hear others and be able to raise a hand.  After it seemed like everyone had whispered to another person I asked the students to come back together and for a quiet hand with some ideas about the number10.  We created a poster together and then the students were shown a graphic organizer to put together their thoughts on the number 10.  The following day their morning job was to do this same graphic organizer on the number 100.  We did not have a chance to debrief the morning job because it also happened to be Valentine’s Day, but what these students had to say about this big number was truly intruding.  Here are some examples of the student work: