Resources mentioned in this episode:

Jenna Laib’s blog 

Routines for Reasoning book by Grace Kelemanik, Amy Lucenta, and Susan Janssen Creighton

Looney Math

Same but Different Math

Register for the Virtual Math Summit 2021

Look at the list of all the Virtual Math Summit speakers

Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 104.  Today we are looking at Two Ways to Build Number Sense.

Welcome to Build Math Minds the podcast, where fidelity to your students is greater than fidelity to your textbook. I’m your host, Christina Tondevold, the recovering traditionalist and Founder, where my mission is to change the way we teach elementary math to our kiddos. Are you ready to start building math minds and not just creating calculators? Let’s get started.

This year is the 5th Annual Virtual Math Summit presented by Build Math Minds. Today I’d like to share clips from two sessions at the summit that focus on helping our students build a sense of numbers.

Both of the presenters I’m sharing today are going to be a part of the Speaker Panel Q & As so if you want to participate in those make sure you register for the VIP access or become a member of the Build Math Minds PD site. You can see the options for the summit registration at

Our first clip is from Jenna Laib’s session about Slow Reveal Graphs.  

Jenna Laib is a math specialist and for the 2020-2021 school year, she taught sixth grade math. She has also developed and facilitated professional learning at local, state, and national levels. She blogs at and curates which is what her session for the summit is all about.  Slow Reveal Graphs are a great way to work on Data & Measurement while also building students’ number sense.

Jenna Laib:  When facilitating a slow reveal graph, I use these two questions over and over again. What new information do we have? How does it change our thinking? These critical questions allow us to attend to new information and then process it. You might phrase them differently. You might say, what new information did we learn? Or what does this new information mean to us? Or what do we know now? You’ll find your own phrasing.

Jenna Laib:  So let’s talk about why we might use this routine. There’s a lot of power to using instructional routines in the classroom. Instructional routines allow students and teachers to focus on mathematical thinking rather than the logistics and the steps of the lesson. That’s because after engaging with a routine, several times, both students and teachers develop a sort of pedagogic muscle memory for the steps. It’s predictable in a good way. Everyone can attend to the content and the ideas rather than having to focus on what comes next.

Jenna Laib:  In their wonderful 2016 book, Routines for Reasoning, Grace Kelemanik, Amy Lucenta and Susan Creighton show how valuable instructional routines can be. For example, instruction routines provide opportunities for students to use language to describe their thinking. There are opportunities for students to make sense of problems, which connects to the common core standard for mathematical practice number 1. There’s also opportunities for students to attend to mathematical structure, which connects to the standard for mathematical practice number 7. In the case of slower wheel graphs, this involves chunking of information as we zoom in and out on the task.

Jenna Laib:  They also provide opportunities for teachers to use strategies to increase access for all students. For example, there’s visual prompts, annotation. Teachers might use sentence frames and scaffolds. It’s an opportunity for teachers to develop equitable practices and to really listen to student thinking and facilitate discourse.

Jenna Laib:  That’s all about routines in general. So why this routine? Well, it helps us build mathematical content knowledge. We’re able to read graphs more fluently, understanding the relationship between the X and the Y axis percentages, et cetera. It also requires students to engage in the mathematical practices outlined in the common core.

Up next is a snippet from Sue Looney’s session Counting on Number Sense.

Sue Looney is passionate about helping our earliest of learners to get started off building their understanding of numbers in the right way and does a lot of great stuff through her consulting at Looney Math and the site SameButDifferentMath.comIn her session for the summit she is talking about how important it is to have a focus on early math and just how complex it is for kids.  Counting is a foundational understanding that we think is so simple for kids but can often be taught as just a memorized sequence instead of building a sense of the numbers.  This session isn’t just for teachers in the early grades, it’s for every stakeholder in education to understand just how important it is to help our students build an understanding of numbers from the start.

Sue Looney:  And then, Clements and Sarama in their research on learning trajectories. Learning that an early age is critically important, especially for those from disadvantaged communities. Educators underestimate what young children know and can learn. We’re going to come back to that in another experience beyond my experience as part of that research team and really seeing firsthand in preschools the powerful thinking little kids can do. We’re going to come back to another idea around that. And they make the case for using research-based learning trajectories as an effective intervention. So if we know the journey right where kids began and then where they’re headed, and we think about that trajectory, and we thoughtfully moved students along that continuum.

Sue Looney:  The achievement gap. Ah, this one. That is the achievement gap does not close, it widens. This gap is most pronounced in the performance of US children living in economically deprived, urban communities. Alarm bells should be going off in your brain, right? All these things. And yet, when we look at professional development, we know that early educators get left out of that. So there’s an assumption that, oh, it’s kind in early childhood and there’s reading and there’s literacy and there’s play. And yes to all of that, in particular to play and kindness. But where’s the professional development focus when we know that if kids start out behind, they remain behind and that the gap just keeps getting wider, and the wider that gap gets the harder it is to close? And so, we want powerful experiences from the get-go and we need to help early educators learn what that looks like.

These are just a couple of the amazing sessions we have in store for you during the Virtual Math Summit 2021.  You can find the entire list of speakers at  

If you want to join in on the Q & A sessions we have with the presenters make sure you register for the VIP access or become a member of Build Math Minds. You can find all the details about registration (including the FREE registration) at

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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.