So I am loving number talks more and more!! We have done several number talks this week. I also got asked to model “active engagement strategies” for a newer math teacher. So I came up with a really simple way to do this with number talks:

I took some of the questions posted in the Illustrative Mathematics teacher guides and put them on a clipboard. Then I write the problems and hand a student the clipboard. These are basically the same questions that I would be asking except now the kids are leading the discussion. They LOVE coming to the board to do this. I barely say a word. Yes, there is some level of randomness to this instead of structuring the responses in a certain order, but sometimes that is even better, as kids tend to pick other kids I might not necessarily have chosen which leads to new strategies emerging. The other day one student responded with, “I just did it in my head,” and the student discussion leader said, “That’s not good enough – tell us HOW you did it!” And the class loved it! If I had said it there may have been moans and groans or “Why is she picking on me?” but they loved seeing a student challenge another student using “friendly controversy.” They are starting to challenge each other; my next step is to introduce more questions and have it not be so scripted, but this is a start. High engagement.

Today we did the tape diagram lesson. While I love the structure of the lesson as introduced by Illustrative Mathematics, I knew as soon as I saw “snap cubes” and “10 minutes” that this would not work with my short periods and large, busy classes. (Plus I just don’t have enough snap cubes. Feel free to donate some to Kodiak Middle School, care of Alex Otto.) So I modified the lesson to suit our needs:

We used sticky notes to build tape diagrams on whiteboards, then old transparencies (gotta love upcyclying those 1980’s products) to write over the whiteboards. This worked really well. I do admit I used a little more direct instruction than I generally prefer, but with only one day for tape diagrams, I wanted to make sure students really understood how to use this tool. We had lots of success here!

Follow along for more posts about Illustrative Mathematics, or as I would put it, the best curriculum I have ever used. Though I constantly rave about this curriculum, I promise I may not being paid by Illustrative Math! (Though you can feel free to send a Chrismas bonus in large bills, Ashli, wink, wink.)