There’s a new way of thinking in elementary school mathematics. Don’t refer to this line of logic as “new math,” because reasoning and making sure students understand how they’re getting answers is much more than just numbers.
Dr. Sherry Parrish author of Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies, Grades K-5, spoke to teachers at Leeds Elementary School (LES) to ensure their students are experiencing their mathematical “a-ha” moments.
Parrish, also an Assistant Professor for UAB Math and Education for the College of Arts and Sciences who received her doctorate in Educational Leadership from Samford University, is a National Board Certified teacher and the recipient of the 1997 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Training.
Parrish provided the teachers with a Top Five list for their Number Talks.
Engaging students to “initiate, respond and evaluate,” Parrish finds it imperative for teachers to record how the students come to the conclusion to an equation such as 26+27=53.
Through Number Talks math is being decomposed into communicative and associative properties to truly highlight what’s happening.
“It’s thought provoking to get these ideas out,” Parrish said. “This process is more explicit and clearer for strugglers. It honors their thinking in a step-by-step process which allows you to understand their thought process.”
Number Talks emphasizes the importance of place value, the notion of structure, how to work on correct ideas and a huge idea that runs throughout math—equivalence.
“Working through a wrong answer creates an opportunity,” said Parrish. “It’s hard to leave it on the board, but it gives students a purpose.”
Encouraging critical thinking, teachers are directed to think about probing questions that can aide their student to getting to the right answer.
“Ask them things like, how can you prove your idea and is there another way we can look at this?”
Rooted in the studies of Jean Piaget, a Swiss development psychologist and philosopher whose known for his epistemological studies with children.
Number Talks is beneficial to students at LES because they are now in their second year as an AMSTI school (Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative). This program is aimed at improving math and science teaching.
Thrilled by the continued progress LES continues to make, Assistant Principal Lisa Shaddix thanked the teachers by saying, “I want to applaud you for your hard work.”
Proud to have the opportunity to discuss Number Talks with the teachers at LES, Parrish said, “Leeds elementary is receiving some great word of mouth. Your reputation is getting out there as a model school.”


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