• Making Sense Of Mathematics Through Number Talks: A Case Study Of Three Teachers In The Elementary Classroom

      Westbrook, Miranda
      Mathematics instruction in the United States has historically consisted of procedures and rote learning practices. Reform efforts in mathematics education support a conceptual approach that integrates reasoning and understanding of problems. Classroom number talks nurture the essence of learning in mathematics. The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of number talks in developing number sense and number relationships in third-grade students pursuant to teacher perception. This study also explored the instructional practices of teachers during number talks, using Parrish’s (2011, 2014) five fundamental tenets. An analysis of the types of questions that teachers pose during classroom number talks to elicit student responses was also conducted. An embedded, multiple-case study design was used to examine participant perceptions through a within-case analysis and a cross-case analysis. Three teacher participants in a large suburban school district in the southeastern United States served as the primary units of analysis, while the students in their classrooms served as the subunits of analysis. Over the course of a six-week period, each participant completed four, audio-recorded interviews and three video-recorded observations. The findings suggested that classroom number talks influence students’ number sense understanding by encouraging them to verbally reason about their thinking. Conclusions were (a) number talks promote accurate and precise communication about mathematics; (b) the learning environment is critical to the success of number talks as students who feel their responses are unappreciated by other students may be reluctant to participate; (c) the role of the classroom teacher is vital to the success of number talks; and (d) the dialogue during number talks was dominated by student-to-teacher discourse. Opportunities for future research include: (a) investigating the reliance on mental strategies learned through classroom number talks; (b) exploring the effects of number talks in a small-group setting; (c) examining the number talks practices of teachers at different grade levels; and (d) studying the impact of classroom number talks on students in various subgroups.