Tag Archives: Ruth Parker

Making Number Talks Matter – Book Study!

I honestly cannot talk about the teaching and learning in my classroom, or across our school, without highlighting Number Talks. I cannot recall the very first time I started Number Talks, but now I cannot imagine my math class without them. My Number Talk journey began with Sherry Parrish’s book and had continued to grow through reading Cathy Humphreys’ and Ruth Parker’s most recent book, Making Number Talks Matter. I implement Number Talks on a regular basis, reflect through writing blog post after blog post and have presented at both NCSM and NCTM around Number Talks. I simply cannot say enough wonderful things about them!

For this reason, it was not surprising when I had the opportunity to meet my fellow Teaching Channel Laureates this summer, that Crystal (@themathdancer) and I struck up an immediate conversation about Number Talks when we began chatting instruction. As an elementary school teacher, I often have middle and high school teachers ask what Number Talks could look like in the secondary classrooms. Would the setting be the same? What would example problems or strings look like? How does the content focus change? How do we get students at that age to engage in these mathematical conversations?…etc. So many questions that I still am trying to wrap my head around.

Fortunately for me, Crystal is a middle school teacher using Number Talks, so our conversations gave me great insight as to how they look and feel in the middle school. We talked extensively about the Number Talk course she had taken with Ruth Parker and shared students’ conversations during Number Talks in our classrooms. It was so exciting to see the connections between our students’ experiences and the path Number Talks can take after my students leave me and enter the middle school.  While I would love the opportunity to plan and observe Crystal’s classroom, and her to visit mine, she lives in Washington state while am on the east coast in Delaware, so our opportunity to collaborate face to face is not a reality.

Enter the wonderful world of technology, amazing resources available through The Teaching Channel, incredible teachers around the world wanting to learn and grow every day, and Ruth and Cathy’s new book Making Number Talks Matter!  Now, Crystal and I do not have to be on this amazing journey alone, but instead we have the opportunity to create an experience in which other educators everywhere can join us!

Together, we have planned and structured a book study unlike any other! Flexible to fit your needs, full of valuable resources, and completely FREE!

Beginning October 5th, each week will be dedicated to one chapter of the book. Conversations will happen on Twitter and Facebook, videos will be posted in our Teaching Channel Teams group, and we will even have a guest appearance by Ruth Parker herself! It is guaranteed to be an amazing learning experience that can only get better with your participation!  

For more information and to register for the book study, follow the links below:

We look forward to learning with you and Getting Better Together!

Check out Crystal’s Number Talks journey here!


Embracing Disequilibrium

There seemed to be two common threads among the majority of sessions at NCSM this week: CCSS and Standards for Mathematical Practice. It was close to impossible to find a session without those terms somewhere in the description. Whether you love them or challenge them, the CCSS offered a wonderful opportunity for rich mathematical discussions & examination into best practice.

It was Ruth Parker who closed her session by saying, “Looking ahead, we need to embrace disequilibrium, liberate students and teachers to step outside of their comfort zone.” This statement was NOT what you saw in every session description, however for us, truly captured the essence and heart of the conference.

Embrace Disequilibrium.

Not a phrase you often hear in education, right?

To help us along in our post-session discussion, we immediately pulled up our dictionary app: Disequilibrium (n) – loss or lack of balance attributable to a situation in which some forces outweigh one another. Synonyms: changeability, fluctuation, fluidity, unpredictability, variability…

As teachers, we like balance. We live on fixed schedules. We arrive at school at a specific time, each subject has an allotted time, lunch for 1/2 hour and so on. So for us, this thought of imbalance opened up a plethora of questions. What does that mean for math education going forward? Does it mean the same thing for everyone? Can you observe it in a classroom? How does it impact professional development for our teachers?

Disequilibrium in the way we plan our units of study: Plan for “the math” in a unit instead of planning how to teach students to solve the math at the end of unit assessment.

Disequilibrium in the way students problem solve: Don’t rush to rescue students from their confusion. Let them struggle. Allow them the satisfaction of learning something new and knowing they can do it.

Disequilibrium in the way we assess our students: Assessment opportunities arise often, take advantage of them at all times, do not just reserve assessment for “quiz/test day.” Make it formative and meaningful in guiding instruction.

Disequilibrium in the way students talk in the classroom: No more raising hands and sharing answers one at a time. Students create arguments, listen to one another, critique each other’s reasoning, and work collaboratively.

Disequilibrium in the way we pose problems to students: Engage them in meaningful math tasks. Pose investigations with student-driven inquiries and entry points for all learners. Make connections, discover relationships, and make a habit of asking, “Is it always true?” or “Does this always work?” to challenge the learners.

Disequilibrium in the way we organize our PD: No more one size fits all when we train our teachers. Design PD like you would want to see teachers teaching students. Be engaging, do math, involve administrators, use technology (shout out to Twitter here), coach teachers, create teacher leaders, model and reflect on best practice.

Marilyn Burns, Kathy Richardson, Jo Boaler, and many others by whom we were beyond impressed, all sent the powerful message that EVERY student can learn. We, as educators, must meet students where they are, embrace mistakes as a learning opportunities, engage students in challenging tasks with multiple pathways to a solution, and encourage mathematical discourse in the classroom. To do this, we must be fluid in our instruction and let student thinking create imbalance.

Embrace Disequilibrium.

Be okay with discomfort, be okay with imbalance, thoughtfully shake things up, be changeable, your students will thank you!

Mathematically Yours,
Kristin and Nancy, Math Minds