I am doing a series of visits to the early primary classrooms at McNeely Elementary to work with the teachers around inclusive practices that support students’ mathematical thinking and understanding. Meeting the first class of grades 1 & 2, I began with a number talk to see what strategies the students were able to use and to see how the students engaged in mathematical discourse. We named strategies and introduced terms like justify and reason into the students’s math talk.
To follow this, I had designed several provocations for students to engage with around the concepts of addition and subtraction. I connected some of the provocations to the K-2 big ideas about computational fluency – relationships between addition and subtraction and building on an understanding of five and ten. After the number talk, I adjusted some of the provocations I had planned, being responsive to what the students had demonstrated during the number talk.
I provided a brief overview of each provocation set out on a table, reading the question and showing the materials. I explained to the students that they would choose what ideas they wanted to investigate or questions they wanted to engage with and they could stay with one provocation the whole time or move to different tables. This was the first time the students has worked in this way during their mathematics time but for the most part, the students made good choices and stayed engaged with the ideas we were thinking about.
The SumBlox blocks were presented on a table for students to explore. This was the first time these students had seen these blocks so I wanted to give them to time to explore and investigate the blocks without a specific question to guide their play.
While students were engaged with the materials and ideas, the classroom teacher, the learning resource teacher and I were able to spend time alongside students, listening and noticing. There were opportunities to prompt and provoke and to invite students to explain what they were thinking about or practicing.
We brought the students to a meeting at the end of our time together, after they had put away all the materials we had been using. The students are beginning to learn how to talk about their mathematical thinking and shared what they did, what they liked and some students were able to share what they learned. With time, the intention is that students will share their findings and questions and make connections with each other during this closing discourse or “congress” time.
At lunchtime, the teachers and I were able to meet and discuss what they had noticed, what questions they had and what assessment information was able to be collected during the practices of a number talk and provocations. A starting point for professional discussion was sharing some of the video I had captured of students explaining their thinking. Based on what we noticed, the classroom teacher and learning resource teacher set some goals as to what they were going to work on with the students before my next visit – developing strategies focused on making ten and developing the language of “decomposing by place value” when explaining their mental math strategies.
These big concepts of addition and subtraction will be explored and investigated in many different ways all year – they are foundational concepts at these grade levels.