School Name: Nakusp Elementary
School District: SD#10 Arrow Lakes
Inquiry Team Members:Leslie Leitch: firstname.lastname@example.org
in collaboration with
Anita Vibe: email@example.com
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Mathematics / Numeracy
Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Flexible learning
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? I wanted to see how Math Talks affected student confidence levels in Math.
Scanning: I observed students on a daily basis during Math Talks, paying particular attention to their attitude toward math and their participation in the Number Talks. I made note of a wide range of student behaviour and attitudes – particularly curiosity and confidence. I looked at their ability to take risks and to maintain a growth mindset. We talked frequently about the purpose and benefits of sharing our math thinking as a class. Our focus was on our strategies and what we realized about our thinking as we participated. The fact that learning is a social process was key to our process. We celebrated our learning whenever anyone had a revelation – a light bulb went off! This encouraged others to offer their suggestions as well. As well, we particularly made a big deal out of our learning when we had a misconception and determined where it came from and how to correct it. We integrate OECD principles and the First Peoples Principles of Learning daily and make sure to discuss how I’m teaching regularly so that students internalize good learning strategies and take them through life with them.
Focus: I am interested in using Number Talks to improve student confidence. I saw a wide diversity in ability from students who are able to take risks in math class – the students who ask questions and offer their thinking – to the students who pay attention briefly and then lose interest as the math becomes more difficult. I saw both groups grow in confidence. Math Talks became a great platform to encourage all students to speak more openly about their math understanding.
I also asked students about their confidence in math. My curiosity was stimulated by answers that did not jive with my preconceived notions. I found students who performed math tasks with much accuracy, but who didn’t seem to have much confidence in their math skills. I also found students who were extremely confident in their math skills, but who were frequently incorrect in their explanations, concepts and strategies. Luckily for us, one student who struggled with math processes, was very open and willing to share. This was a gift to us as students realized that she was learning more as a result of putting herself out there and demonstrating her learning. It definitely helped others voice their misunderstandings to gain clarity.
Math talks are designed to accept all possible answers before discussing strategies used to find the answers. Because there are usually, a few wrong answers, it was okay. It was important to listen to these explanations and to celebrate the direction each person took to find their answer. The platform is one of acceptance, celebration and respect. It works!
Hunch: I don’t think the contributing factor is necessarily stemming from the school. I think most kids don’t like to make mistakes, and especially not in front of the whole class. The great thing is that this is where I noticed the biggest gains. I found that Number Talks help all students speak more comfortably and openly about their math strategies and how they use math vocabulary to help make sense of new meaning. I also noticed students gain confidence by taking risks. By risk taking, I mean the ability to admit to and to discuss misconceptions. We made sure to celebrate these turn-arounds in a big way. It is important for students to realize that when they make mistakes and seek solutions, they are learning. I also want them to be able to explain their journey to undo misconceptions – and to use that process for future applications.
New Professional Learning: I explored adjusting the time frame of the Math Talks. I need to remember that Number Talks should only take about 10 minutes a day.If longer, then that topic needs a full lesson.
I explored using the Number Talks for other Math strands as well. I would like to continue to expand my Number Talks repertoire so that I am able to use them to reinforce all of the math strands.
I explored using Math Talks with small groups at times. I found that it’s okay and helpful to do math talks with less than the full class.
Occasionally, I offered the students a ‘hang 10’ option. Usually, students signal their understanding by raising thumbs and fingers in front of their chest when they have a strategy to share (or more than one). I noticed that one clever student rarely indicated her understanding at all. I realized that although she knew the answer, she was hesitant to speak in front of the class. I gave her (and others) the option occasionally to indicated with a thumbs up that they knew an answer, but that they would prefer not to be called upon to speak. This was a bit tricky. By not overusing it, I was able to use it to my advantage when necessary.
I used Number Talks by Sherry Parrish and Ann Dominick to guide my talks on fractions, decimals and percentages. I also worked on operations because this was an area that needed to be addressed this year. I dabbled in other strands of the math curriculum and realized that my research should go in that direction.
This helps bolster the confidence of reluctant speakers.
Number talks are a quick way to assess the group and individual progress. It’s quick and very clear.
Number talks are a great way to quickly bring a small group up to par so that they can confidently join the whole group the next day.
I like to refer to the obvious increased level of confidence that Number Talks provide, and I’d like to use that to inspire risk taking in other areas.
I would like to use Math Talks regularly to relate to real life scenarios, occupations and careers.
I would like to use Math Talks as an example of how peer teaching will strengthen and improve a student’s math understanding.
Taking Action: as above
Checking: The biggest difference was that the students began to use their math vocabulary daily to explain their thinking about math strategies. At the beginning of the year, we found that it was extremely obvious that students could describe their math thinking clearly in terms of numbers, symbols, pictures, graphics, organizers, charts and real life scenarios. They were very hesitant to use clear and specific math vocabulary. That has definitely improved and allowed the students to describe their math work much more clearly and confidently.
Reflections/Advice: I plan to continue to use Math Talks with my class. I will stick to 10 minutes sessions. I will include small groups when necessary. I will allow students an option to opt out of sharing occasionally. This is usually when it’s a new concept and this needs to be carefully monitored so that it doesn’t defeat the whole purpose of the talks. I will use it more widely across the curriculum as I build my repertoire. I strongly recommend Math Talks as a way to encourage kids to take risks in math and also as a way to be able to explain their math using all four modalities – real life stories, numbers/symbols, pictures/graphics and words/explanations. It is an excellent complement to Math Wonder Walks.