Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Math Talk..... The Big Math Trend Making a Difference (If You Do It Correctly)- PART 1 of 4

Earlier this summer I went to a math workshop by the one and only Greg Tang.  Now if you have seen him present before then you know he has no filter in his thinking or opinions.  Personally, I find him very entertaining and an mathematical genius.  At one point of the workshop he began making fun of "Number Talk" or "Math Talk," calling it worthless in the classroom.  He went on to explain that the kind of math talk he has observed has trained students into copying strategies of the "smart" kids and teachers praising any strategy......

Two months before this day I just entered a 10 page paper, an additional 10 pages of supplemental materials, and 45 minutes of video of how I conduct "Math Talk" in my first grade classroom to the NSF for the 2014 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching award .  When Greg Tang spoke those words, my heart sank thinking that now I would not have a chance at that award :(.  

But then I thought about it...... My "Math Talk" is nothing like Greg Tang's explanation.  The following outlines how I set up my 2013-14 first graders to become some of the greatest math thinkers I have ever taught.

I am going to guide you through a years worth of Math Talk to get the most out of your students (Mathematically) in a fun, interactive, and engaging way!!  I am going to focus on two months at a time so you do not have so much to take in at once :). 

I started the year with the whole group instruction to facilitate math talk.  Dot pattern flash cards are such an easy way to encourage math talk with the group.  The dot pattern below can be flashed to the class for 1-2 seconds and then hidden from view.  Ask your students to share how many dots they saw on the paper?  Then, once they share that number then ask each student HOW they saw the pattern (notice that the dots are trying to get students to think of 3 and 1 with then will relate to 3 + 1= 4).  Then ask other students how they saw the dot patterns.  The important part of this conversation is to show the students the pattern card once again and to ask them what patterns they notice.  Guide them with questioning to discover that there is 3 red dots and 1 yellow dot and then relate that pattern to the equation of 3 red dots and 1 yellow dot is 3 + 1= 4 total dots.  The vocabulary of using the word, total, is very important as well.

Use 5 frames with your students BEFORE 10 frames.  Once students "see" patterns of 5 and have those patterns written out into equations, then seeing patterns of 10 become much easier.

Once students have a strong understanding of patterns of 5, then move to using 10 frames.  Encourage and guide students to see number 6 as 5 and 1 more (5 + 1), 7 as 5 and 2 more (5 + 2).  Always relate the verbal to writing to bridge common gaps with learning facts.

10 frames are a great way to teach the understanding of teen numbers.  12 is 10 and two more (10 + 2), 13 is 10 and 3 more (10 + 3).  Remember to ask questions of your students to specifically guide them to understand AND apply the learning goal/target.
 I would suggest going through these dot patterns as a math warm-up DAILY (5-10 minutes) and then referencing them when working on math fact practice later on in the school year.  You can extend the understanding by showing two dot pattern cards at once to find the total and even adding white boards to further extend that mathematical thinking.

I created these ten frames myself using a table in PowerPoint and circle shapes.  I then saved them in JPEG form and done.  If you would like a copy of these 5, 10, and 10+ templates then just leave your email in the comments area and I will send them to you :). 

My next post will talk about where to go next with Math Talk in October and November.  Oh and for that Presidential Award (PAEMST), I just found out last week that I am once again a state finalist for 2014 and will have another chance at being a National Recipient!!!  My fingers are crossed because either I win this year or I will not apply again in 2016.    2012 was a disappointing national runner-up. 

Thanks and feel free to follow my blog to get the rest of this blogging series as it is posted!


  1. Thank you for sharing your ideas!

  2. Thanks! This is so great! I am really interested in math talks. I would love a copy of your Dot Pattern Flash Cards. My email is

  3. hi, I would love a copy of your math talk dot pattern cards. My email is

  4. I ❤ your ideas, Tina! I teach middle school students with learning disabilities who tend to struggle "mightily" in math. Your math talk strategies are wonderful for all age groups. I would also love to have a copy of your dot pattern templates. My email is: Thank you for sharing!! Susan

  5. Thank you so much! I love your ideas and am looking forward to implementing them in my first grade classroom. I would love to have the templates. My email is Thanks for sharing! Rebecca