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Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 156: Virtual Math Summit Preview: Things to Think About When Doing Number Routines

Before we get into the episode, this week’s positivity comes from Facebook comments…I know, can you believe there are POSITIVE comments out there on Facebook?!?!  All joking aside, I don’t really enjoy being on social media or replying to comments, so it always makes my day when I am in there going through comments that I see these nice ones.  I was going through comments on some posts and came across these two back-to-back about the summit from Roxanne and Davida:

We are officially in Virtual Math Summit month!  The summit is at the end of this month so we have just a few more previews to give you.  If you haven’t registered yet, get over to are 3 levels of registration.  Free registration gives you 10 days to watch this year’s sessions. We also have a VIP access for the summit which gives you access to this year’s sessions through the end of March.  Or if you’d like to access the past 7 years of summits along with this year’s, you can become a member of the Build Math Minds PD site.  Information about all 3 options is available at 

This week’s episode is our 4th preview of some of the sessions from the upcoming 2024 Virtual Math Summit.  In this episode I’m sharing sessions that give us ideas for math routines.  In each of the sessions they share tips on how to make your routines the most productive and impactful along with giving you routines you can do with your students the very next day.

Up first is a clip from Michaela Epstein’s session Powerful Math Routines For All Learners.  She is from Australia so you might hear her say Maths instead of Math.  In this clip she is sharing tips on how to make your routines impactful.  She shares just 3 of her tips here and then talks about them in regards to a specific routine, so to get all the tips you’ve got to come to the Virtual Math Summit.

“…We’re gonna take a look now at what are the actual underpinning elements of impactful Maths Routines. So what makes the difference between those routines that are merely just a routine and don’t offer students that much and those are actually help students to become stronger more confident and critical mathematical thinkers? So as I share these elements you might staret thinking about routines that you already doing in your classroom and how these elements fit with them.  So, let’s go. The first aspect, and probably the most obvious, is that Maths Routines are short and repeatable, okay. They don’t take up the whole amount of a class time. They could even be as short as 5 minutes but they have that repeatable structure that you can keep coming back to.  And that, over time, becomes very familiar for students and really as part of this, these routines are quick for you to plan. You can consider which examples you’re going to use but you know how the routine works and you know what the setup of it looks like. With the sorts of routines that I’m sharing with you today I always find it easiest to look at the topic that I’m currently teaching and then the common resources that I’d be using whether it’s textbook or a worksheet and actually drawing examples from them to populate the routine.  Now the third element of these routines is that they allow all students to access the Maths.  So they’ve got a low enough floor. That means that every student in the classroom can actually think about the mathematics of what’s going on. We’re not trying to trick students here or push them to some new challenge, we actually want them all to get involved so that they can all have enough opportunity to share their thinking and they’re reasoning. So let’s take a look at the next routine now and some examples for what this could look like…”

Nicole & Jessica make up NJ Consulting and in their session, Getting explicit with Number Talks, one of the tips they give is about the importance of using the same way to represent the students’ strategies when they are sharing during a Number Talk.  To get the full effect of this, it helps to see their visual which will be in the video of this episode at

“…okay so we talked earlier about keeping a consistent representation through your number talk. So we have an example here as to why and how that can be so powerful. So if you look at the left there and you trying to decifer the student strategies but then you look at the right we want you to have a think about which is clearer? If you were a student sitting in a classroom which one would you be able to relate to better? Which one would help your understandings? So obviously we can see that when we represent in a clear, consistent way like on the right, using the number lines, you can actually see how the strategies connect. So we can see that the first student there has counted on by ones but the next student has added on a 10.  We can see, actually see, that Eric, Angel, and Jasmine all had the same strategy that was just represented in different ways on the left there. So we’re actually able to be much more intentional with our number talks when we represent them in the same way and students can see ‘oh, look a few students actually added 10. Why would they do that? Why would they add a 10?’ And then you can start having a conversation about place value whereas on the left side you can’t really see that.  It’s not very clear. Yeah no, definitely not.  So you know, from our point of view using the same representation is really key. It’s really instrumental in making sure you know your connections. All that talk part of the lesson is able to sort of really focus on those connections. So yeah, we don’t do another talk where we use different representations in the same Number Talk.  It’s always the same. And revoicing is really important here. I think Jess touched on it earlier.  Revoicing is about helping the rest of the students in a class understand what a particular student is saying. So if you know, say Franklin is giving me a strategy, I as the teacher am revoicing that so that the other students can understand and I’m representing it in a clear way so that it’s really visual and we’re helping students make those connections…”

Our last tip on Number Routines comes from Rosalba Serrano and her session Not Your Typical Math Routines.  Her tip is to be flexible on when you do which types of routines, don’t be so scheduled.

“…please stop making everything a scope and sequence, okay! Not everything has to be sequenced to like the T okay.  And I’m including myself in this because I actually made this mistake early on in my career. It’s just like, I don’t know habitual I guess. I don’t know what it is but we always want to pace everything, right? We always want something so scheduled out but that is not how these routines should go. I see a ton of schools do this where they dictate when a certain routine is done on what day. So for example, there’s a school district that dictates that their teachers do number talks every Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Another school district, actually one that’s nearby, actually has Problem Solving Friday. So they do a problem solving routine on Friday. I’m sorry but why? Why?!? Who says that that needs to be the rule?!?!  That is so coo-coo crazy. Math is flexible, right?  It’s based on what students need so please do not structure this so rigidly. And again I’m being vulnerable and saying I made this error in the beginning of my career where I was so rigid with when I did routines with my students. You have to be a little bit more fluid and flexible when it comes to this. Let me give you a couple strategies on how to mix these up. When you’re thinking about what routine you should do, I want you to think about what you’re trying to accomplish. So, first of all, do you want to do a routine right now? Let’s say tomorrow. Let’s say tomorrow you’re gonna do a routine. Do you want to do it to build in, as a build in, right? Like do you want to do it because it’s going to lead into a support or support like an upcoming lesson? Okay. Maybe you want to do the routine as a review, like a tier one support. Like a spiral review right. Or maybe you want to do a routine and it’s tied to nothing at all. You just want to do the routine. Okay, like you think it’ll be fun to do the ABCs of Fractions today. Okay, then do that. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be tied to anything, just see what your students need.  If some kids, let’s say, are struggling with magnitude for a hot sec, then do routine on that. Don’t just ignore the fact that they need that because you’re on Number Talk Monday like that doesn’t make sense. That’s ridiculous, do not be so rigid…”

If you’d like to learn more about using Number Routines in your classroom, make sure you get signed up for the summit:

Until next week my Fellow Recovering Traditionalists, keep Building Math Minds.

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As you start off the school year, I want you to keep in mind what is really important as we're trying to teach mathematics to our students.