Math is so cool! I love number talks!

04 Mar

It really is!  I think I have learned way more about math as a teacher than I ever did as a student, and I enjoy is so much more now then I did then.  Wow.  This has been a journey that began ten years ago when I took a Math Solutions (Marilyn Burn’s) 5-day course on teaching elementary school math and I just continue to learn and grow.

I’ve been doing number talks for a long time.  A number talk is when the class has a discussion about numbers. I pose problems on the SMART board and ask the children for solutions and we discuss patterns and strategies in math.  For example, we often play silent multiplication, the game is silent until the end until we discuss patterns and strategies.  Here is an example:

2 x 4 =  8

4 x 4 =  16

8 x 4 = 32

16 x 4 = 64

What do you think I want the students to get from this?  If you guessed using doubling you are correct.  The students will notice that if one factor doubles then the product also doubles.  Today I asked the grade fives to predict what would happen is we doubled both factors.  What do you think?

Yesterday we had some PD (professional development) around math and I found there is still much to learn.   I’ve been trying to help the students learn about the associative and distributive properties of multiplication for years with varying levels of success.  What are those you ask?  Good question:

download (4)







You can break factors up into smaller numbers and still get the same product.  Well, I’ve used that for a long time with double digit numbers.  For example,

15 x 5 =

10 x 5 = 50

5 x 5 = 23

50 + 25 = 75

But some of the students struggle with this and yesterday I had an epiphany – they don’t really understand about breaking the numbers apart and I need to do it with single digit numbers first so today that’s what the grade 4s did.  All the students had tiles on their desks and I asked them to solve 2 x 7 = using the tiles to make an array.  Then I put up 4 x 7 =  and Courtney remembered the doubling strategy from another day (yay!).  Next I put up 3 x 7 and asked them to use some of the facts they already know on the board to solve 7 x7 =


There were a couple of students who saw that they could use 3 x 7  & 4 x 7 to help them solve 7 x 7.  All they had to do was add the products 28 + 21 = 49 to get the answer.

7 groups of 7 is the same as 3 groups of 7 + 4 groups of 7.  They broke the first 7 into a 3 & 4.

Super cool!  We need to do some more work on this until all the students see it but we will get there!!!!!

I found some of the Math Solutions number talks on YouTube if you are interested in watching.  I will try to get someone to film one of ours so you can see our class in action!  Stay tuned.

1 Comment

Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Math, Mental Math, Operations


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One response to “Math is so cool! I love number talks!

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