When test scores revealed students’ lack of number sense, this district explored a strategy-based approach to a growth mindset in math, like this number 10 countdown.

#10: How we created a growth mindset in math

When standardized test scores revealed students’ lack of number sense, one district examined its instructional practices and set out to explore a strategy-based approach to teaching number sense

We looked for structures that promoted these goals and math talks was a natural fit. In her book Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching, Boaler writes that opening up the conversation around math is the single best way to increase number sense.

Last year, we offered professional development to teachers through after school workshops, in service days, and summer learning opportunities. We purchased Number Talks by Sherry Parrish for our teachers and facilitated learning about number strings by having teachers engage in math talks as students.

As teachers began to implement the structure in their classrooms, feedback indicated that they wanted a framework that clearly laid out which strategies they should be focused on at their grade level and how to facilitate them easily. That’s when we found and purchased Daily Math Fluency from hand2mind to help educators easily and effectively guide math talks with students. This allowed our teachers the framework they were looking for to be intentional about math talks in their classrooms.

We set aside time for students to share their strategies in the classroom. We focused on providing adequate think time, using structures for equal participation like those from Kagan Cooperative Learning, and providing opportunities for students to revise their thinking.

Related: The 4 simple misconceptions that can derail early math education

Students were suddenly comfortable exploring the multiple ways a math problem can be solved with the entire class. When students made mistakes, they were able to recognize in real time how others got the right answer. They were comfortable voicing their disagreement with incorrect strategies in a sensitive way, while teaching each other how one problem can be solved in multiple ways. Students were seeing their misconceptions addressed immediately instead of having to wait for a teacher’s feedback.

Choosing visual tools to promote number sense

For us, math talks have been one of the vehicles that allow students to own their learning. We loved the visual nature of seeing relationships between dot patterns, ten frames, and open arrays. We felt that students were provided the support that was needed to have deep discussions about math concepts.

Now, when teachers say, “It’s time to do math talks,” students are excited to share their strategies and the classroom is abuzz with mental math strategies. Thanks to these new methods, our teachers have seen student engagement increase. We’ve seen a 2- to 3-percent increase in our standardized assessment in math from December of 2017 to December 2018 for every grade in K-5 and every subgroup. It’s been a joy getting such positive feedback from teachers. Students not only feel engaged, but also successful.

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