A quick math talk before our main math activity is proving to be a great way to get kids to participate and share their ideas. I aim to have these talks last roughly 10 minutes and be as student led as possible. I love hearing students way of looking at and solving a math problem. They often share strategies that I would never think of; which is so valuable to share with their peers. I am constantly impressed by how much these young mind are capable of solving and being introduced to, especially in math.
We have been working with shapes, so I decided to use our 3-d wooden blocks for our math talk. I start with all of the blocks covered and then reveal the first three blocks to students. I ask them to share their initial thoughts about what they see and how many. Many students will quickly say that there are 3 blocks, but I encourage them to explain how they came to that number. It creates a great discussion because some students will count each block individually, others see 2 cubes and then add on one more. Some students shared that they see squares and circles. The more ideas and discussion that students share the better. It is a great way for them to learn from each other.
After students have shared their ideas with the class, I then move onto a harder question. I uncover the 7 shapes (as pictured) and give students a minute to look at and count the shapes. I then ask what everyone sees and how many. Many children can tell me that they see 7 shapes. I typically will then ask how they got to 7. Often kids will mentally count the blocks or tell me they pointed (in the air) with their finger to count. Others were able to explain that they counted 4 on the bottom and 3 on the top and then added them together. Others will do 2 + 2 + 2 + 1. All of these strategies are valuable! I learn a lot when listening to children’s answers and learning how they learn. The math talks give insight that I would otherwise not have. Plus, it is a great way to share strategies with each other.