Math Talks, Part 2

In a recent blog, I wrote about Math Talks and how they are such a vital piece of student success in math class (see previous post at  Beyond basic Number Talks, I utilize several other types of activities for our Math Talks. 

Here, I want to share with you some of the resources and strategies that I use in order to implement a successful Math Talk.

For my classroom, a Math Talk may consist of any of the following:

  • Number Talks – including basic computational operations, fractions, decimals, percents and more.
  • Dot Talks – pattern recognition, thinking in arrays and more.
  • Splat Talks – similar to dot talks but with a bit of a twist.  Splat Talks are a great way to introduce solving equations for single variable equations.  More complicated Splat Talks delve into multivariable equations and even systems of equations.
  • Cube Conversations — another way to help students with pattern recognition, moving into seeing 2-dimensional objects in 3-dimensional ways.
  • Visual Patterns – The thinking visually web site has 280 different patterns – more than one per day!
  • Which One Doesn’t Belong – there is such a great variety of these containing numbers, shapes, symbols and more.  The fact that a student’s “correct” answer is dependent upon their construction of a viable argument makes this an excellent activity for developing reasoning skills and learning how to critique the ideas of others.
  • Estimation Clipboard – a very fun and engaging way to get students to work on estimation.
  • Esti-Mysteries – this is estimation on steroids.  My students absolutely love these, to the point that they are making their own and challenging the class.
  • Estimation 180 – an estimation problem for every day of the school year … there is even an Estimation 180 Desmos activity!!

I choose which of these to use based on what I am seeking to accomplish (and based on the needs of my students in specific skills or concepts).  I also look at specific lessons and try to match a Math Talk that will directly target a skill, concept or mathematical practice that is key to the lesson.

Visual Patterns, Dot Talks, and Splat Talks really work on pattern recognition.  These allow for a lot of dialogue as students see the patterns in several different ways.

I also use Splat Talks to introduce solving basic one-step equations, as well as multiple splats to help introduce the idea of systems of equations.

When I want to take it to the next level, I utilize Cube Conversations, which takes dot talks or patterns and makes it 3-dimensional.

I have found that when my students are not communicating well in their collaborative groups, I can use a Splat Talk, a Cube Conversation or Which One Doesn’t Belong to help increase the dialogue and discourse among the teams.  Because there are a variety of ways to see the patterns or to choose which one doesn’t fit with the others, it increases the engagement of each student as they try to explain how they see it.

Estimation Clipboard and Esti-Mysteries are a way to “gamify” or add “puzzlement” to Math Talks.  Students will spend an incredible amount of effort and energy trying to solve a puzzle or win a game.  The engagement by all students during these is considerably higher than any other of our Math Talks.

I have found that the best way to use Esti-Mysteries is to have them make a numbered list for the estimations after each clue.  If there are 5 clues, they should have 5 estimates before settling on their final prediction.  These also help with the dialogue among teams as they have to work together to find a consensus on their estimate. The “reveal” is always a fun time, with cheers going up for those who were close (or exact) in their final estimate.

If you need some additional hints, help, direction, or simply want to save time, simply visit my Google drive folder with many of these activities at:

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