I am currently taking a two week math workshop called Numerical Reasoning. It is put on it part by the Great Birmingham Mathematics Partnership and the Mathematics Education Collaborative. The emphasis of the workshop and the other ones given by these groups is for children to learn mathematical skills through meaningful experiences such as menus, investigations, etc. I could write forever about this type of learning and how I want to use and how I have used it but...I won't! Today I want to focus on one aspect of it called a Number Talk. A Number Talk is a ten to fifteen minute math routine in which students are asked to solve problems mentally. Students are encouraged to use a variety of strategies (counting up, decomposing numbers, constant difference, etc) to solve a math problem (fractions, addition, subtraction, time, multiplication, division, you name it). When a student has an answer, he or she will give a thumbs up sign and hold their hand close to their chest so other kids won't panic when they think everyone is finished. After students have had time to think, the teacher asks if someone wants to share their answer. The teacher writes all answers students come up with on the board but does not tell which is correct. Then the teacher will ask who wants to share their thinking and record how different students thought through the problem. The goal is to increase fluency, allow students to create new strategies besides the traditional algorithms, and be exposed to different ways of thinking. Number talks can do done with kids of all ages with a varying degree of difficulty. Number talks are a great way for you to peek into the minds of your kids and learn about them and from them.
For more info on number talks check out the following:
Number Talk PDF
Number Talks PDF 2
I will be more than happy to answer any questions or help you get started using Number Talks!