“Curiouser and curiouser!”

Alice’s words from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were definitely running through my head as I was presenting a Number Talk in Mrs. Bammel’s Kindergarten classroom this week! When I chose the word “curiosity” from Tracy Seger’s call to action #ShadowCon15, I chose it because the word curious makes me think about fun, learning something new, or the beginning of a new adventure, and who doesn’t want all that when they’re working with math? Of course, there is a flip side to the idea of curiosity, the side of anxiety about what we might find when we are curious or the fear of the unknown that may be exposed. So, I admit I did feel a mixture of all of these emotions as I began my talk.

We started with simple arrangements of two dots as I was also introducing the idea and structure of a number talk for the first time. Once students caught on to the idea that I was going to ask them to explain their reasoning and might even ask them to come up and show their reasoning, or even touch the card to explain, I had no lack of participants!

However, in order to spur their curiosity on, I finally had to move to more interesting dot images of three dots. I admit I was thrown off when a kid stated, “It’s just going to be two every time!”, but I had to remind myself that it was a good thing that they wanted more challenge and variety. They were curious about where we were going with this.

As we moved into more interesting dot images, students were beginning to make some connections, I actually had a student say, “I saw these 2 and 1 more”, which made me do a happy dance in my head! And as we continued, I tried to highlight those moments without discouraging the array of curious answers students were presenting. In the end, I was left excited and looking forward to seeing where this group of Kindergartners will get in number talks by the end of this year. I was also left with a few takeaways for myself in the roll of facilitator of number talks.

  • Takeaway 1: Begin number talks with a curious stance about how students will see and connect to the images/numbers.
  • Takeaway 2: Be prepared for the unknown and sometimes a little off the wall responses that students may bring to the discussion, like, “I see 3 trillion!!”. Still not quite sure how to facilitate that one…
  • Takeaway 3: Work on balance between allowing enough students to share that we see a variety of thinking, but not so many that we lose focus on what we are doing.

For Alice, her curiouser and curiouser moment was a result of so much surprise she couldn’t even speak good English and there were definitely some surprises in my Kinder Number Talk, but as I looked at those surprises through the lens of curiosity I was actually pleasantly surprised rather than dumbfounded. I realized the students and I were learning in a fun and engaging way with numbers and to me, that’s a good day!

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