Number Talks Workgroup – April Meeting

The April 3rd session of our Number Talks Workgroup will bring together schools that are looking to pilot or expand the use of Number Talks as a regular practice. This is a chance to hear how others are getting ready, and take advantage of what we’ve learned this year to get off to a good start.

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This effort is an outgrowth of our Middle School Math project with Milwaukee Succeeds.

Number Talks Workgroup – January Recap

Our January session focused on what should happen between now and next fall for schools that want to expand the number of teachers using number talks as a regular practice or support an initial cohort of teachers willing to make that happen. Here’s where we landed:

Spring 2019

  • Introduce number talks in an in-school PD session for teachers new to the practice
    • Understand how teachers think about Number Talks
    • What are their goals for math lessons?
    • Where do they hope the practice might bring?
    • What do they fear might happen during number talks?
    • What do they value most in their current approach to teaching math?
    • What do they think is least effective in their current approach to teaching math?
  • Have a teacher or coach that is comfortable with Number Talks lead a session for the class of a teacher new to the practice
  • Have teachers try out the practice in their room with a coach or experienced teacher on hand to provide feedback
  • Participate in UWM’s Math Circle for Teachers
  • Line up funding for resources, PD
  • Identify teachers for pilot effort– the goal here is to require participation, but identify teachers who want to kick of the 2019-2020 school year with Number Talks as a regular practice.

Summer 2019

  • Script the first 20 days of number talks so that teachers new to the practice can focus on leading the practice rather than figuring out what problems to use.  Here teachers can tap into the work Brown Street Academy and LaCausa did to kick things off this year.
  • Assemble resources for teachers participating in effort
    • Reference materials
    • Anchor charts
    • Number Talks quick reference card
  • Number Talks PD just prior to the start of school
    • Teachers have a chance to both lead and participate in number talks
    • Teachers have a chance to practice charting student thinking
    • Teachers get a chance to preview strategies they are likely to see in their first 20 days of number talks

Fall 2019

  • Teachers use Number Talks 2-3 times per week starting the first week of the semester
  • Quick, frequent check-ins with in-school coach or teacher lead to address issues and concerns
  • Work with grade level groups to select problems focused on specific strategies to guide problem selection after the first 20 days of Number Talks
  • Participate in peer led PD with other teachers working with Number Talks

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Number Talks Workgroup – January Meeting

Our Number Talks Workgroup brings together teachers and coaches who are, or hope to, embed Number Talks as a regular practice within their math lessons.

The focus for January is to sketch out a timeline for schools that want to kick off Number Talks in the fall or expand to a larger group of teachers. We’ll talk through what needs to happen before the end of the school year to over the summer to address concerns of teachers adopting the practice and ensure they have what they need to feel comfortable doing so. As part of this process we’ll work to map out what materials need to be on hand when and the funding deadlines for grants that can help schools cover professional development and resources to support their teachers.

If you’d like to join us, let us know:

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This effort is an outgrowth of our Middle School Math project with Milwaukee Succeeds.

Number Talks Workgroup – December Recap

Number Talks Quick Reference CardThis month we joined the Milwaukee Area Math Council at City Lights Brewery for conversation about math and math education. We were also able to distribute copies of the latest version of our Number Talks quick reference card, which Milwaukee Succeeds had printed for us.  We’ll have the final version laminated, but we’re taking advantage of a mix-up when the printer forgot to laminate these.

The unlaminated versions make it much easier for a teacher to highlight key things they want to pay attention to or write additional prompts. We’ll check back early next year with the teachers these have gone out to to see how they may have modified them and what other feedback they may have before we finalize the design.

If you would like to get a couple of the quick reference cards for yourself or colleagues, let us know. We’d love to hear what you think.

 

I'd like to test drive the Number Talks Quick Reference card.

Number Talks Workgroup – December Meeting

Our Number Talks Workgroup brings together teachers and coaches who are, or hope to, embed Number Talks as a regular practice within their math lessons. It is organized as a peer-driven professional development opportunity where educators can share what’s working, where they need help, and strategies they have used to overcome difficulties.

For our December meeting, we’re joining the Milwaukee Area Math Council to talk math at City Lights Brewing.

 

If you’d like to join our workgroup, let us know:

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This effort is an outgrowth of our Middle School Math project with Milwaukee Succeeds.

Number Talks Workgroup – November Recap

Wednesday night’s meeting of our Number Talks workgroup was focused on addressing two issues raised at our last session– producing a quick reference card for Number Talks that teachers new to the practice could use to help guide discussions, and second, helping teachers understand how to select Number Talks given the range in abilities they see within their classroom.

Quick Reference Card

After our October session, we created a draft version of the quick reference card, which coaches from Brown Street Academy and La Causa were able to share with their teachers.  From the feedback received from teachers and some ideas that came up in last night’s discussion, we made a couple of revisions and sent it back out for feedback. If all looks good, we’ll work with Milwaukee Succeeds to print and laminate a stack of these we can share with teachers working with Number Talks.

 

Choosing Number Talks

The First 20 Day plans used by Brown Street and La Causa teachers laid out a set of Number Talks for the start of the semester. This allowed teachers to get comfortable with the routine at the start of the year without having to give a lot of thought as to which problem sets would be most useful for their students.  Since one of the goals of Number Talks is to build understanding where students may have missed something, teachers can’t simply choose problems based on the pacing guide for the curriculum, and instead, need to target number talks around the gaps in understanding that students have.

We began our discussion with the hypothesis that if we identified a set of common misunderstandings, we could match those to one or more math strategies that help illuminate the misunderstanding.  Since our references for Number Talk problem sets are keyed to the strategies that are useful in solving the problems, that would allow teachers to follow a path from misunderstanding to strategy to problem set.

As we talked through the approach, however, it became clear that mapping this out in a way that accounts for both the misunderstanding and the skills teachers are trying to build (getting away from counting on, for example) would result in a complex index.  Further, even if one could produce such an index, if teachers simply followed that by rote, it would not help them build the skills that allow them to recognize where a student is and the best exercises to guide students’ understanding.

At this point, we took a step back. We want teachers to get practice choosing number talks and for them to understand the signs that led to a good choice. We also wanted to ensure that they had the right feedback to develop their skills in charting the thinking of students during Number Talks. Here’s the approach we settled on to test out over the next several weeks.

  1.  The coach will work with grade level teachers to select one or two strategies to focus on for the coming month from Math Strategies guides for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division produced by MPS as part of a GE Foundation grant.
  2. For each strategy identified as a focus for the current month, grade level teachers will pull a sets of Number Talk problems from the  guides produced by Boston Public Schools which groups Number Talk problem sets by the math strategies they are likely to invoke. Three guides cover first, second, and third-fifth grade.  Since the schools we’re working with have kids with a wide range of skills, teachers will focus on problems appropriate for where their students are.
  3. Grade level teachers will select their own problem sets, but as a team, will select at least a couple that will be used by each of their grade level colleagues
  4. Teachers will document student thinking on chart paper rather than smart/white boards so they may easily be shared at grade level meetings with the math coach.  These meetings will provide a venue to walk through how student’s thinking was charted, which number talks worked well given where students are, and how those observations can help guide the selection of the next round of problem sets.

As we stepped through this approach, we also recognized the need to list a few signs for teachers that Number Talks are going well:

  • Students were willing to talk
  • Students were willing to take risks
  • Students tried a new strategy
  • Discourse was respectful
  • The problems were just right— not too easy and not too hard

This resulted in the “Pats on the back” section of the quick reference card.

One other big decision came out of the discussion– we shifted the time and venue for our December 12th meeting to join the Milwaukee Area Math Council at City Lights Brewing at 6:00 pm.  Join us if you can.


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Number Talks Workgroup

Our Number Talks Workgroup brings together teachers and coaches who are, or hope to, embed Number Talks as a regular practice within their math lessons. It is organized as a peer-driven professional development opportunity where educators can share what’s working, where they need help, and strategies they have used to overcome difficulties.

If you’d like to join us, let us know:

I'd like to... (required)
ParticipateSupport the effort

This effort is an outgrowth of our Middle School Math project with Milwaukee Succeeds.

Number Talks Workgroup – October Meeting

We had the first meeting of our Number Talks Workgroup on Wednesday at the Milwaukee Succeeds office.  This was a chance for teams from our pilot schools as well as teachers from other schools working with Number Talks to share how things are going as they work to embed Number Talks as a regular practice within math lessons.

The coaches at both schools put together a plan for the first 20 days of school to kick off the practice at the start of the school year.  Here’s how things are going…

What’s working..

  • Having a 20 day plan allowed teachers to know where and how to get started.
  • Coaches have been able to model Number Talks in class
  • Student response to the practice has been positive, with several teachers reporting that students are excited about math and look forward to Number Talks
  • Teachers are able to leverage the discourse practices of Number Talks in other subjects, or when reviewing student work
  • 2-3 times per week seems to be the right frequency, with Number Talks used to build understanding of topics that have already been covered in other lessons.
  • Students are able to verbalize their thinking which has helped teachers better assess their progress.

What’s they are running in to…

  • Some teachers are comfortable doing Number Talks with smaller groups of students, but are still struggling in whole-group settings. This is particularly true in higher grades, where there is a wider spread of abilities and some students are less willing to share their ideas.
  • The 20 day plan got teachers off to a good start, but they are now at a point where they need to figure out what problems to pose given the range of understanding among their students.
  • Balancing where students are in their understanding (the basis for selecting Number Talks problems) and what the pacing guide for the curriculum tells teachers they should be covering at this point in the semester.
  • A few of the teachers in our pilot groups are teaching new grades this semester and are still working to recognize where students are in their understanding.
  • The ability to maintain a poker face in response to incorrect answers is a new skill.
  • Figuring how to draw kids who are reluctant to share their thinking into the conversation.

What teachers could use help with…

  • Guidance on finding the right entry point for students given their level of understanding
  • Options for professional development focused on Number Talks
  • Funding for additional resource materials
  • How to help other teachers move past their existing routine to be open to Number Talks
  • A quick reference with sentence starters for teachers to use during Number Talks.

Our next session is coming up on Wednesday, November 14.  If you’d like to join us, let us know:

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Math Conversations

Public Math MKE

Our public math effort is led by Mary Langmyer. Together, we’re working with K-12 math educators, faculty from UWM and Alverno, and a several community partners to create opportunities for students and families to play with math in informal settings.  This effort grew out of our April 2019 Collab Lab: See Math Everywhere.  Since that session we’ve been testing activities in a number of different settings leading up to a bigger push starting in 2020.

Number Talks Workgroup

Our Number Talks Workgroup was an outgrowth of our Middle School Math project with Milwaukee Succeeds.

Over the 2018-2019 school year we worked with teams from Brown Street Academy and La Causa to establish Number Talks as a regular practice within math lessons. We’ll use what we learn to help other teachers and schools do the same. As part of this effort we’ve formed a workgroup of practitioners from a number of schools who do or want to use number talks in their classrooms, or would like to see the practice spread within their school.

The workgroup met roughly every 6 weeks to share their experiences, struggles, and ideas to help each other master the practice and bring their colleagues along.

Spreading Number Talks

Goals for 2018-19 School Year

Our workgroup met Tuesday evening to walk through our goals for the 2018-19 school year which are focused on getting Number Talks to take root within schools.

  • Validate assumptions about what needs to be in place for Number Talks to take root and spread within a school
  • Pilot effort with Brown Street Academy and Prince of Peace
  • Recruit and prepare additional educators in round 2 schools
  • Develop community of practitioners that can support pilot and round 2 schools

Assumptions

Our assumptions about what needs to be in place for Number Talks to take root and spread within a school come out of our workshop at the Systems Thinking Institute in March, and our ongoing work with educators involved with the project.

Support

  • Overt support of building leadership
  • Community Partners (Learn Deep, Milwaukee Succeeds, UWM)

Resources

  • In-building expertise/support for Number Talks in a role that can serve classroom teachers
  • Willing cohort of teachers
  • Time for in-building collaboration
  • Cross-school network of practitioners willing to share problems and ideas
  • Peer-based professional development

Tools

  • A shared set of tools teachers can use in their practice:
    • Common Terms
    • Sentence Starters
    • Anchor Charts
    • etc.

Collaborative Feedback Processes

  • In-building
  • Cross-school/district

 

Pilot School Criteria

Our assumptions about what is required for Number Talks to take root and spread, guide our criteria for where it makes sense to pilot the effort:

  • Supportive Building Leadership
  • In-school resource in a role that can support colleagues working to establish Number Talks as a regular practice.
  • 3+ teachers willing to establish Number Talks as a regular practice within their classrooms from the start of the school year.
  • Participants willing to collaborate across school/district boundaries

We’re excited to be able to pilot the effort with Brown Street Academy (MPS) and Prince of Peace Elementary School (Seton Schools), and will be working with both schools over the summer to prepare for a fall start.

 

Tools

A number of the tools teachers planning to implement Number Talks are looking for were produced and archived as part of the GE Foundation project within MPS.  These include:

  • Sentence Stems
  • Discussion Prompts
  • Math Strategies
  • Planning Guide
  • Teacher Moves

These tools, and others are available on the project’s legacy site:

https://sites.google.com/milwaukee.k12.wi.us/gefvideos/math-resources

In our work this year, we also saw the need for a couple of additional tools– first, what we’ve been calling a Strategy Map– a quick guide for teachers that, for a given Number Talk, gives them a sense of the types of strategies they might see, common errors, and for those common errors, strategies a teacher can use to allow students to recognize and correct the error.  We’ll explore what these might look like over the summer.

We’ve also heard a need for a tool that can allow a teacher easily note where a student is in their thinking or level of comfort with a strategy that does not disrupt the flow of the discussion.  A simple checklist may suffice and we’ll look to test out some options within our pilot schools.

 

Collaborative Feedback Process

In-Building

For teachers to quickly develop competence and comfort in a new practice, effective, timely feedback is key.  We envision a process that borrows from Scrum, an agile methodology used in software development.  The idea here is a quick daily meeting that allows team members working on a common project (in this case Number Talks) to communicate where they are, where they are headed, and what they need help with. Our suggestion is to do these on the same frequency as Number Talks, 3-5 days a week.

Cross-school/District

For the 2018-19 school year, our workgroup meetings will shift towards peer-based professional development.  We look to continue the schedule of meeting every 4 to 6 weeks, but the focus will be on what teachers see, learn, and need help with as they use number talks in their lessons.  We’ll expand the group to include not only the teachers at our pilot schools working with number talks, but teachers at other schools that are using the practice on their own, or from schools that are looking for more widespread use.

Role of Community Resources

Throughout the year, we’ve had help from Kevin McLeod and Gabriella Pinter from UWM’s Mathematics program. UWM has a couple of professional development opportunities this summer, that Brown Street teachers will take advantage of in preparation for the work they will be doing next fall.

Strong Start Math Project — June 18-29
Early Math Seminar — July 30 – August 3

We touched briefly on the potential to connect after school programming at the Boys & Girls Clubs to the work schools are doing around Number Talks, as well as leveraging the Milwaukee Area Math Council to reach additional teachers interested in bringing the practice into their schools.

 

Metrics & Evaluation

As we look to scale the use of Number Talks within schools, we see the need for two sets of metrics.  The first, is focused on the spread of the practice:

  • Number of teachers using Number Talks as a regular practice
  • Number of schools with teachers using Number Talks as a regular practice
  • Number of students participating in Number Talks on a regular basis
  • Frequency of Number Talks for teaches, schools and students

The second set of metrics is aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of the program.  There we can look not just at test scores, but

  • Movement along learning trajectories/where students are in their thinking
  • Level of participation in discussions
  • Improvements in classroom culture

UWM’s Master of Sustainable Peacebuilding Program put together a workbook of tools that MPS might use to assess them impact of Systems Thinking in Schools.  They see that Systems Thinking training ought to have impacts beyond simple mastery of of the ideas.  As those ideas are put to use by students and staff the impact should be felt in the culture of the school, how students deal with conflict, etc. Given that number talks establish a pattern of respectful discourse where the students’ ideas are valued, we expect the practice to show impacts beyond understanding in math, and that a similar approach could be useful in assessing the effectiveness of Number Talks.

 

Next Steps

As we look forward to our fall pilots with Brown Street Academy and Prince of Peace, we’re moving on to what we need to get done over the summer:

  • Get the resources/tools in place for pilot teachers
  • Identify schools/teacher leads for who are interested in following the pilot efforts/participating in next year’s work group series
  • Confirm roles for community resources
  • Solidify the evaluation process
  • Secure funding to support the effort

If you’d like to join or support the effort, please let us know.