Math Talks.  Number Talks.  Whatever you call them, they've been around for a while now.

We know that talking about number sense with our classmates leads to a deeper and more meaningful understanding of our base 10 number system.  You can read about Why I do Math Talks here.  Or, you can say...

"But I don't have 30 minutes every day in my math block to dedicate to a Math Talk!"

"But I've been doing Math Talks and it doesn't seem to be making a difference!"

"But I've started Math Talks but I have NO IDEA what in the world I'm doing!"

Don't worry.  I've been there.  I've had many a failed Math Talks over the years.  But I knew in my heart that Math Talks was a best practice because it was best for kids.  So I dug in my heels, put my big girl panties on (sorry, Mom!) and kept on.

And I finally found a rhythm to Math Talks that worked for me and my first graders.  So let's chat about how to make the most of a Math Talk.

Follow A Predictable Routine

There are no surprises in my Math Talk routine.  Oops.  I lied.  The content is a surprise to the kids.  The rest is the. exact. same.  Every time.  Why?  Because predictability is good for kids.  It makes the routine smoother and faster.  Once the kids learn what's coming next, there is no more explaining and it moves along like a well-oiled machine.

So what is the routine?
When it is time for the actual Math Talk, I pull up the digital Math Talk file on my White Board.  I tell the kids what our goal is for the talk.

"Today, we are working on using what we already know to solve a new problem.  Get your thinking caps on because it's time to TALK ABOUT MATH!"

Then, I click on the Math Talk link to pull it up.  If you are using your own Math Talk, this is where you would put that Math Talk on the board.

If it is an image (dots, ten frames, rekenreks, etc), then I only show it for 3 seconds.  After 3 seconds I click to the next (blank) slide and give them 30 seconds of wait time to solve.  The kids know this.  I don't remind them after the 2nd or 3rd time.  If it is an equation or skills (shapes, measurement, etc), I don't time them.  I just leave it up and they get to solving.  Again, they get 30 seconds or so of wait time.

After the wait time, I say, "TURN AND TELL" and they echo, "HOW I GOT MY ANSWER!"  Then, they think-pair-share for a minute or so.  I listen in to a few partners to hear strategies.

Then, I say, "TIME TO SHARE in 3, 2, 1..." and by that time they are turned back to face the Math Talk.  If it was an image, I go back to the slide at this time.  If it was an equation there is no need to change anything.

Now it's time to share as a whole group.  I ask some kids (randomly or intentionally's up to you) to tell me the answer only.  We collect different answers.  Then, I go back and ask those same kids to tell me how they got their answer so we can agree on the correct answer.

Once we agree on the correct answer, we start sharing different strategies.  This part can get long if you let it.  Don't.  Stay focused on your guiding question(s).  In my example, I would say after each strategy is shared, "Did you use something you already knew to solve?  What was it?"

As the kids share, I notate.  They do not come up to the board.  This will take up too much time.  They stay seated and they TALK.  I notate.  I share 2-4 strategies MAX.  I notate each strategy in a new color so we can easily see what goes with what!  Really enough to see different strategies and to reinforce our guiding question.  If I get the strategies I want and can reinforce our guiding question after 2 strategies, I move on.  If not, I may ask for 1 or 2 more.

There are 3 images or equations in most of the Math Talks.  I use the same exact routine for the 2nd round.  I repeat our goal, "Remember, we are working on using what we already know to solve a new problem.  Get your thinking caps back on because it's time to TALK ABOUT MATH!"

During the 3rd round, we do the same thing again with one difference.  This time, after our think-pair-share, we play, "Guess My Way."  We will come back to this in a few!

Picking the Right Math Talk

Once you have the routine down, it's time to learn how to intentionally pick a Math Talk that is best for your students.  This is definitely an art that gets better over time.  If you are new to Math Talks, my suggestion is that you just pick something--anything--and try it out.  Just jump in head first and follow the routine above.

You will find out quickly if you picked well or not.  If you missed the mark, don't be afraid to stop in the middle and tell the kids you'll start over later that day or tomorrow.  My hands up because I've totally done this a few times!  It's okay--no, it's good--for kids to see that adults and teachers mess up too! :)

Here is my thought process for picking out a Math Talk.

What is my base 10 or math skill goal for the day or week?
If I'm working on counting on, I need to choose images with a set that's easy to subitize and count on.

If I'm working on making a ten, I need to choose ten frames to help kids see how many more to ten.  Or I need to choose equations with numbers that can be combined to make ten and some more (3 + 4 + 7) or decomposed to make 10 (5 + 6).

If I'm working on shape attributes, I need to choose a shape talk that asks kids to defend what makes a triangle a triangle.

What do I want kids to demonstrate in the math talk?
If I want them to show FLUENT THINKING, I stick with images and equations that will push kids to do something besides counting all.  Those are images that can easily be subitized.  Or that have the bigger set on the right side so that they add on from the bigger number.  Those are also equations that have a clear bigger number (2+12) or have a 10 in them (5 + 3 + 5).

If I want students to show FLEXIBLE THINKING, I tend to use images or equations with more than 2 numbers.  Images always encourage a wide range of strategies because everyone sees the pictures differently where a basic equation, most kids read left to right and it's harder to push them outside of that box.

What type of Math Talk should I use?
In first grade, I do a mix of images and equations.  At the beginning of the year, the mix is probably about 70% images.  By the end of the year, that is flipped with about 70% of our Math Talks being equations.

In kinder, all Math Talks will be images at the beginning of the year.  And we will move to 30% of them being equations by the end of the year.

In second grade, the mix is mostly equations with a few images here and there as needed!

For my first grade teacher friends that don't want to have to think about all of this, I have the Math Talks I use for each of my weekly goals listed in my Guided Math Workshop Plans.

Engage Kids in Active Listening & Talking

The best way to keep kids engaged in a math talk is to keep it short, laser focused on the guiding question and goal, and move quickly from one part to the clockwork.  Timing really is...everything! :)

The next best thing to keep kids engaged and active in Math Talks is partner talk.  Giving kids a chance to turn and talk gives them a reason to move their body and talk one on one.  Everyone's strategy gets heard by at least their partner...even if they don't get to share with the whole group.

Another strategy I use is writing names next to the strategies as I notate them.  Kids LOVE seeing their names and their friends' names on the board.  And they will want to share more when they see names on the board.  I promise you that!

I'm a believer in TPR (Total Physical Response).  So when I show the image or equation, students put their thumbs to their chest when they have a strategy and are ready to talk.  But then, they continue to think of a different way to solve and add a new finger when they have another way.  So I can see kids who have one way or multiple ways or no way at all.

Another sign we use is "Me too."

The last thing I use to keep kids engaged during our 3rd "round" of Math Talks is "Guess My Way."  We basically do the same think time, partner talk time, and whole group share.  But I have a specific strategy in mind that matches our goal.  After each strategy, I say, "That was a great strategy, but...THAT'S NOT MY WAY!" and the kids learn to say that with me.  Once kids guess my way, I say, "That's a great strategy, and...YOU GUESSED MY WAY!"  If no one has guess my way after a few tries, I do tell them, just to keep things moving.   It doesn't matter that we play this every time.  This is their favorite. Every hand goes up during this game.

Notate, Notate, Notate

Notation is what takes a Math Talk from good to great.  Notation is writing exactly what we say in mathematical language.

And it's MY job to notate kids thinking in a Math Talk.  It's my chance to model how mathematicians write their thinking.  It's not unlike writer's workshop where I model how to write what kids are saying.

So if a kid says, "I started at 9 and counted 1 more," I'll say, "So you got 9 in your head" and write the 9 with a circle around it.  Then say, "and then counted 1 more" and write 1 more tally mark with a 10 in the green strategy below.  Then, I'll write the equation the same way--as I talk.

For kinders, my notation may just look like recording how I counted (either all or counting on) and with or without an equation depending on your kids.  That's an important piece too.

It's important for kids to see lots of ways to write equations and notations.  And it's MOST important that you talk as you write so they can connect their language to the written math language.

You may be tempted to have kids come up and write their equation.  Please, please, please do your best to refrain from this.  Not only does it take more time, it's not the goal of a Math Talk.  It's the time to model.  Just like in Writer's Workshop our mini-lesson is where we model write and then we send kids back to independently write and try out what we modeled.

During math problem solving, students will try out notations you model for them.  I've had first graders accurately use parentheses in their problem solving notation because I modeled it in Math Talks.   That would've never happened if I let kids notate their own thinking in Math Talks.  You model it, they will try it out on their own when they are ready!

Try out the Digital Math Talks for FREE here or find the bundle here.

One of my favorite math tools to keep in my classroom is playing cards!  I blog often about how I use them to play Math Games that build Base 10 and comparing and other math skills.  But today, let's chat about how to use playing cards to learn about related facts or fact families!

This game (like so many math card games!) can be played alone or in partners.  I love that my kids can choose if they want to work alone or with someone and still play the same game!

For this game, you only need cards 1-9 in the deck.  Put all of the other cards to the side. (If you play my other games that use a "0"--Queen-- or 10, you can keep those in this deck, but the game may be just a little harder that way.  It is totally doable if you want though!)

You will deal 21 cards in a face down stack.  Then, turn over 4 cards in a row beside the deck like this...

Look through the 4 cards and see if you can find 3 cards that make an addition or subtraction fact.  If you find a fact, pull the cards down and fill in the other related facts on your fact family game sheet.

Then, fill in with 3 more cards from the deck to get back to having 4 cards showing.  If you cannot find a fact family, simply draw another card from the deck to lay out until you can find a fact family.

The only difference with this is you may not need to draw any more cards or may need to draw fewer cards.  You want to keep 4 cards showing at the start of each round.

The object of the game is to find as many fact families as possible.  If you want to play against a partner you can take turns and see who can find the most fact families!

You can find plans for this game and the recording sheet in this Guided Math Workshop Plans Resource.

The 100th day of school is quickly approaching around here!  My own kinder kiddo is SOOOO excited to party!  Here's a look at one of my favorite math games to play on the 100th day of school, Race to 100, and how to differentiate it for K-2 learners!

How To Play Race to 100

In race to 100, students can play alone, with a partner, or against a partner.  When students play and are sharing a board, they simply roll a die and color in that many squares to add.   I like to use 2 different colors...either to show the different partners or to help see what we added (the parts and the whole).  Then, they record the number sentence as they go.

If students are playing against a partner, each partner would have their own board and they would take turns rolling and coloring in on their board.  The first person to get to 100 on their board WINS!

Differentiating Race to 100

In Race to 100, students are adding within 100 which is a first grade standard.  They are also practicing counting on, and writing equations to match the "problem."

Do you have kids that need some additional support?  Have them pull pop cubes and lay out on the chart instead of coloring them in.  Sometimes, my lowest babies get carried away with their coloring and forget to count as they color.  Grabbing the cubes is definitely a great scaffold for these learners.

Do you have kids that need a challenge?  Try giving them 2 or 3 dice to roll at a time.  Have them add the numbers on the dice and then add that to the ending number like is shown in the picture below with 35+12=47.

TIP:  Doing this will speed up the game.  When my kids are ready for multiple dice, I usually give them a 200's chart or even 500's chart if they are ready for that.  You can find these versions of Race to 200 or 500 in this Math Games Packet.

Want to challenge them even more?  Play Race to Zero!  It's played the same way, but kids start at 100 and subtract the number they roll until they get to zero.  You can color in the squares as shown at the beginning of this game.  But it will be more helpful for your strugglers to X out the numbers because subtracting and finding the answer on the 100's chart can be confusing at first.  #speakingfromexperience #justtrustme

Also, notice the version with multiple dice below and how that helps kids learn to subtract a ten and then some more! :)

What about a version for 2nd graders?  When I was doing intervention for K-5 earlier this year, I used the 500 and 1000 charts for some of my 3rd-5th graders who were struggling with double digit addition and subtraction.  I added stickers to my dice to make them have numerals on them and then they rolled two dice and added the double digit that it made.

While this was great intervention for my upper grade kiddos, it would be perfect in the regular 2nd grade classroom as well!

You can find plans for this game and the Race to 100 and Race to Zero game sheets in my Guided Math Workshop Plans Resource.  (The 200, 500, and 1000 chart races are in a separate resource).

I'm a BIG believer in math games.  Giving kids a fun way to practice math skills is always a win in the classroom!  Roll and Record is a great game for practicing collecting data and analyzng and comparing data.

All students need to play is a die, crayons, and the recording sheet.  This game can be played in partners or alone!

Students roll the die.  Then they record which number they rolled.  They continue to roll until they have at least 20 in one of the categories.

Then, they answer questions about the data by comparing the categories and adding or subtracting 10.  There are 3 versions of this game.  The tally version seen above and horizontal and vertical bar graph versions.  In Guided Math Workshop, kids play a different version each day during their hands on time!

These graphs are included as part of my Guided Math Workshop Plans!

The first school I taught at was an IB (International Baccalaureate) School.  The primary IB program is big about asking questions to guide the students learning.  In my first grade classroom, we used an "I Wonder" Wall to ask and answer questions about the content we were learning.  This is the perfect place to help little ones understand what a question is and practice asking, writing, and answer questions. 

Here's a look at the routines for our first grade Wonder Wall.

Question Words

At the beginning of the year, we talk about our attitude words and what good learners do (Read about that here.)  When we talk about being curious, or an inquirer, we brainstorm question words.

I don't have a picture of my original anchor chart, but basically, I have a poster size question mark and I add these question word cards to the question.  There are some years that I just add the question cards around the I Wonder Wall bulletin board.

We spend some time asking questions and writing questions using these question words.  Then, the cards stay up all year on this bulletin board to help kids brainstorm questions they are wondering about our learning.

Key Concepts

In the IB curriculum, key concepts are attached to the content units you teach.  For example, when we taught weather, one of our key concepts was causation.  Many of our essential questions were causation questions.

Each of the key concepts are copied onto color card stock and put on the Wonder Wall.  Here is the original board from years ago so you can see the layout.  Ignore the "outdatedness" of it! :)

I Am An Inquirer

When we talk about being an inquirer at the beginning of the year, each kid makes a kid diecut to match them.  I add them to the Wonder Wall with a speech bubble around the bulletin board.

This is each child's space to add questions.  When they have a question about what we are learning, this is where it goes.

If we are learning the content whole group and they have an unanswered question, they can ask it and I will write it on a sticky note with the class and we will stick it on that persons bubble.

If students think of questions during other times of the day, they can write it on the sticky note themselves.  I let them do this if they finish work early, or if they go to our Big Idea station (where they are reading books about our content topic.)

Wondering Wednesday

I try to keep an eye on our questions and we look over them as we study our big idea.  Sometimes I might add a lesson or book in to answer a particular question that I think is important for the whole group.

Other times we take a "Wondering Wednesday" and google answers to our unanswered questions.  This is usually what we do with the left over questions at the end of the unit.

As questions are answered, we talk about what kind of question it is.  This is so we can sort the question under the key concept it matches.  Depending on our content topic, some key concepts will be fuller than others.  For example, in our weather unit, most of the questions will be causation questions because that just naturally goes with the topic.

We record the answer to the question together on a light bulb and a move the question and answer under the appropriate key concept.  Depending on your kids, and definitely for older kids, this is something they could research and answer on their own during a "Wondering Wednesday."

All of the materials you need for you own I Wonder Wall bulletin board can be found here.

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