Saturday, March 05, 2016

Number Talks

Alright everyone a little mental math for you: multiply 49 x 5

This is the question I posed to a few unsuspecting employees while my daughter was in music lessons. I have a pretty good bantering relationship with two of them so I asked them to humor me for a second and play along. Requesting that once they had the answer to give me a thumbs up.

Within seconds, one guy, M, flashed his thumb high and proud. A few seconds later J gave me his thumbs up. E stood there stratching his head, thinking about it but not really getting anywhere. While I waited patiently on E, a fourth employee entered the scene and I asked him the question as well. To which he gave an honest 2 seconds to it and then walked away saying, "I'm out!"

I let E struggle for a little while longer and when he gave a shrug I turned my attention to M. "How did you get your answer?"
M: "I took 40 and multiplied it by 5 and then 9 x 5 and then added it together."
Me: "Awesome! J, how about you? Did you do have a different strategy?"
J: "Yeah, I made the 49 a 50; Multiplying 50 x 5 and then subtracting 5."
E: "Why didn't I think of that!"
M: "Ah, I would not have seen it that way, cool."
Me: "I love that you both got the answer but did it different ways."

What transpired from that was a cool conversation about Math. M shared with us a strategy he has for squaring two digit numbers. Which he modeled and we discussed. K came back on the scene and I asked him what had happened to him in his earlier life that made him give up on math. He said, he was abused by three or fourth math teachers along the way and that has affected him ever since. Insert my huge sad teacher smile. To which he replied, I did not have cool, relevant math teachers like the parents we see in here. Mine were old and mean.
By now E had caught up with the rest of us and leaned over to the guys. "The answer was 245, wasn't it?" They nodded yes and encouraged him. E said, "I used J's strategy. In school I would have been the kid that copied off someone else. But that wasn't an option today."

The conversation continued on what Math looked like for each of us growing up.

At some point other parents joined us and one dad asked, "Are you guys talking about that NEW MATH?"

Me:"Common Core? I actually like Common Core! It is teaching our kids the why of Math."
The consensus in the room was that parents did not know how to help their kids with their homework. One mom leaned in and asked for my number.

Less than a year into teaching Math at the public school and I can say that I truly do like Common Core Math. It teaches kids the WHY. It breaks down multiple strategies and then let's you decide which way is best for you. I understand that entering into it at 5th grade or later is frustrating. To fully appreciate it I think you need to start it from the beginning as it builds, piece by piece.

My kids entered into Common Core pretty late in their academic lives, half way through sixth for my daughter and the end of seventh for my son. While they were both in the higher Math class this year, they both struggled out of the gate. They are gaining ground now. They were not used to defending their answers. There were gaps that are filling in. I am super thankful their Math teacher is cool, relevant, and patient! 

The book I am currently reading, Number Talks is helping me to build these conversations with my students. My goal is to help my students love math, understand it, defend it and use it appropriately. I want my kids to have the tools to be successful now and in the future. These conversations start now, with enthusiasm. ;)

Quick: anybody know the answer to 70-37, more importantly how did you get it?