Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Number Sense Routines

I don't mean to sound disrespectful, but the State Board of Education really did something right.  You know how it is.  The motives are good, but sometimes we teachers are asked to do things that don't necessarily push us in the right pedagogical direction or make a substantial difference in teaching and learning.  Did I say that nicely enough?  So, what did they do?  They're requiring all math teachers to take a class called MTI - Mathematical Thinking for Instruction.  Brilliant move.  I can't say enough about the benefits of this class.  I've still got a lot to learn about being an effective math teacher, but in one fell swoop, that class shifted my thinking about 180 degrees.  

One of the big ideas I came away with is the absolute necessity of teaching number sense better.  Cool, but how exactly do I do that?  Well, I just finished reading Number Sense Routines by Jessica F. Shumway, and it answered many of my questions. 

This is what Jessica Shumway says about number sense. "It is the key to understanding all math.  Students who struggle in math often lack number sense."  Kind of sounds important.  According to the book, number sense is many things:

  • a sense of what numbers mean
  • an ability to look at the world in terms of quantity and numbers
  • an ability to make comparisons among quantities
  • flexibility, automaticity, and fluidity with numbers
  • an ability to perform mental math
  • flexibility with numbers
  • automatic use of math information
  • an ability to determine reasonableness of an answer
  • an ability to decide on a strategy based on the numbers in a problem
Oh, is that all?  Makes me feel like I've got my work cut out for me.  Fortunately, Jessica's book is full of daily routines or warm-ups for building number sense that are specifically designed for K-3.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who, like me, has had some questions about how to implement the MTI philosophy into their classroom more efficiently and completely.  (My principal just purchased this book for each grade level at my school.  Maybe yours will do the same.  Hint.  Hint.)  
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