sharing our work at NCTM

Posted on: April 19th, 2014 by jnovakowski

Last week I attended the annual NCTM conference, this year held in New Orleans. NCTM is a US-based association that is really international in scope. This is huge conference, with about 8000 attendees this year. I had been invited to share some of the work we have been doing in Richmond and was happy to share some of the things our schools have been working on to develop mental math strategies and focus on computational fluency.


My session focused on how we introduce and teach students in K-3 how to use visual tools to scaffold a transition to visual mental representations before they start working with numbers abstractly in their heads.

I shared how our K and K/1 students at Anderson and Blair used a variety of concrete materials to create representations of five to help develop a sense of five-ness and then how they used the Doodle Buddy and Haiku Deck apps on the iPads to represent five in different ways.

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I shared how K and 1 students at Blair and Thompson and the primary students at Byng use ten frames in different ways to help them represent numbers as well as support their understanding of addition and mental math strategies.






making 10 2 copy

I shared the app Find Sums that the grade 1 students at Garden City have used to work with five and ten frames, leading to work with the hundred grid as well.

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The most complex visual tool for students to work with is the number line. Beginning with a numbered line, then moving to a marked line and then working with an open number line allows students to work with numbers fluently, using a visual tool to support their computations. Examples below are from primary students at Blair and Byng.

8+5 numberline 8+5 hatchmarks 8+4 open numberline

counting on 3 copy

And here is an example of a “ShowMe” screencast from a grade 2 student at Blair showing how we would figure out 58+25 using an open number line as a visual support. The teachers at the conference got some insight into life in west coast schools when the Vice Principal came on the PA during this boy working on his screencast to announce an earthquake drill. He kept going until he was finished the question and then zipped back safely to his classroom to duck and cover.

58+25 with announcement of an earthquake drill

Besides sharing the work we are doing in Richmond, I was able to attend some excellent sessions. Math rock star Marilyn Burns shared her current work with assessing students’ work with number operations and I also attended a session by Sherry Parrish, author of Number Talks (widely used in our Richmond elementary schools) in which she shared her new work with Fraction Number Talks (new resource coming soon!).

Thank you to RTA major conference funding that helped with much of the cost of me attending this conference.

Hanging out with mathy colleagues in New Orleans, it became a bit of thing to search for interesting arrays in the local architecture. Can you spy five and ten frames in these photos?!

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The conference was a great experience in a great city!


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