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  • Writer's pictureAlex Box

Shall we start a Number Talks Network?

Upcoming event - The Number Talks Network

Most of my work these days is in research and development and I don't often run professional development days. But when this school got in touch and said ‘We want to give staff a day to explore maths and have fun’.. Well it was a good fit and I just couldn't say no!

It was a Big Day of Maths Play. We used our imaginations to play with dots and explore different ways of solving problems. There was time to play games and explore possibilities. Dedicated time to experience and explore number talks was a highlight.

If you're not yet familiar with number talks, I think perhaps you'd be interested in this pedagogical approach. It's a little ritual that I credit as largely responsible for repairing my own relationship with numbers and it was a powerful place to begint to shift my maths teaching practice. Seeing other teachers in action is my favourite way to learn and I've collected some videos of number talks in action with students - you can explore them here.

In preparing for yesterday's workshop, I updated an old ‘Steps of a Number Talk’ summary below. Big credit goes to Ruther Parker and Cathy Humphreys who have really supported and nurtured my number talks practice through their books Making Number Talks Matter and Digging Deeper: Making Number Talks Matter Even More.

A Number Talks Network

One of the things that makes number talks so powerful are the various pedagogical nuances involved that, together, add up and make for a transformative ritual - one that challenges damaging maths perceptions, fosters community connections, and builds a strong sense of student number power over time.

Things like:

  • What hand protocols to use and when to use them

  • Length of wait time given

  • Talk moves, e.g. the questions we choose to ask

  • How to navigate mistakes in ways that normalise and nurture them

I've been playing with number talks for around 5 years or so now. My first number talk was very clunky but still fun - the students were excited to share their ways of seeing a cluster of dots. The next time I saw that group, a couple of students bounded up to me and asked, excitedly - 'Will we do another number talk today?!' So all in all a positive start.

I've come a long way since then with practice and having time to reflect and refine the approach so that it feels right for me and aligns with my values and teaching philosophy. Of course it takes time, repeated practice, and opportunities to critically and creatively to reflect on that practice for it to become easy. I've been sensing a hunger among teachers to better understand the full power that number talks can have for the students they work with. And am wondering whether building a community of number talk practice might help.

If this sparks you're interest, you can read about a 1-hour. session I'm running on Thursday to explore, share and discuss number talk practice. Whether you're completely new to number talks, are a seasoned practitioner, or fall somewhere in between - you're invited. Everyone interested in this pedagogical approach is welcome. It will be an interactive and collaborative event.

If this feels like a good idea to you, I'd love to see you there on Thursday. There'll be a recording of the event for registrants to access later.

Registration cost is: Pay what you can and starts at $5. All takings from tickets will help to cover costs of running the event (Zoom, website hosting etc) and, who knows, if The Number Talks Network gains momentum and is seen as valuable across the education sector, maybe it will become a funded initiative! Learn more and register here.

Wishing you a lovely day.



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