Math is a language. Much like any other language, strengthening it revolves around conversation. Talking about math can help children understand discussion, explanation, and reasoning. It revolves around questions such as “Why do you think this?”, or “How could we solve this problem?” These types of conversations can help strengthen students’ reasoning and logic skills. Math Talks (also called Number Talks) are a way for students to focus on a solution to a chosen problem and discuss the reasonableness of that answer. In short: Math talks are about different strategies and reasoning, number talks are about solutions, and whether it is reasonable or not. The beauty of these is that they can pop-up organically and BOTH are great ways to enhance mathematical learning, especially by helping you see how your child decodes, solves, and justifies a problem. An example of a talk for proper estimation: “How many peanuts are in this jar? What strategy could we use to get a reasonable answer?”
Math Talks can also show why a child has made errors in their math. Most students try to avoid making mistakes at any cost; this is equally true of students with LDs in mathematics. As soon as they make a mistake, they quickly erase it and write down the correct answer. All too often, however, they do not take the time to understand why their answer was different. And sometimes their answer is correct—just different! Parents can use the mistakes their children make by using them to shed light on misconceptions and areas of weakness.
Click here to read the article Are Number Talks an Effective Strategy for Students with LDs?
Example starters for Number Talks:
- Target Number: Ask your child to reach a target number using other numbers provided:
Example: The target is 10, how can we get there with the numbers 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12 and 15?
- Represent It: Give your child a number and ask how many different ways they can represent it.
Example: 12 can be represented as 10+2, (5×2)+2, 6×2, etc.
- Equal To: Give your child an equation and ask your child to come up with an equation that would give the same answer.
Example: 5+2 would give the same answer as 3+4, 6+1, 10-3, etc.
As I said, it is a language – so don’t expect your child to be fluent right away. Build up your child’s vocabulary by pre-teaching keywords, and use those words daily yourself. My students were so used to me constantly asking “Did you double-check your solution? Does this look reasonable to you?” that they now ask each other before I get the chance to. Slowly build your child’s vocabulary with a math ‘dictionary’ – lists of the keywords they are learning that they can reference. Again, this can be pocket-sized, or larger. If I were to translate from English to French, I may need my dictionary and grammar reference book, due to my lack of knowledge of the language. It’s only fair that a student struggling with math should be allowed the same! You can help your child by providing a glossary of terms to refer to (click here to view the free math vocabulary lists available on Teachers Pay Teachers), or you can even work together to create your own!