IM Talking Math

By Kristin Gray

Most importantly, I hope everyone is taking care of themselves, their families, and others as much as they are able to during this time. With schools and districts pushing instruction online with a quick turnaround, everyone is experiencing unprecedented change.

Like many professions, teachers have to adapt to their new home lives in addition to their new professional lives. As a teacher, I didn’t use technology much in the classroom. I relied heavily on student work and discussions to teach math. It’s hard to imagine what I would do if I were in a classroom role right now. I imagine I would peruse all of the resources people are generously sharing and making available, and then I might become overwhelmed.

Through many conversations with teachers and coaches over the past week, I have heard varying expectations for teachers and students from place to place. There is not one “just-right thing” to make and share that would support everyone. Regardless of the math or modality, we always want students to continue to be curious about mathematics. We want them to see and talk about their math ideas. So, at IM, we have focused our initial  K–5 distance learning support on what might help teachers and families prompt these discussions. 

We want to just come out and say it just in case you haven’t heard it yet: You will likely not be able to complete your curriculum this year. Phew, that feels better. While we are planning suggested ways to account for that content in the upcoming year, we also didn’t want to give up on supporting students learning on grade level, with aligned materials, in the short term. So in addition to our free online tasks, we are creating daily questions to foster discussion.

We are calling these daily questions “IM Talking Math.” The prompts, for grades K-5, anchor on one image. The images were chosen to allow a lot of noticing, wondering, and asking questions, while at the same time providing a related question aligned to the standards. This way, teachers can provide grade-level-appropriate questions for students based on the math they have learned so far this year. 

Each day, we will post a picture on twitter and add the grade level questions in our “IM Talking Math” slide deck. These slides include: 

  • an invitational launch to get students interested in the picture
  • six grade-level-aligned questions
  • standards alignment across related domains to demonstrate a potential progression of questions across grades
  • related “After the Image” questions and activities to do at home 

How we imagine they could be used: 

  • Teachers could send the slides out to students to respond digitally.
  • Teachers could send the slides to families to offer opportunities to promote math talk.
  • Teachers or administrators could print out the picture and questions for students and families picking up meals.
  • Families could discuss the questions with their children of different grade levels around the same image.
  • Students could start with the kindergarten question and work their way up the grade levels.
  • Teachers and families could start a conversation about math in the world around them with the picture as a starting point.
  • Students could make connections between the image and their lives and come up with similar ideas or pictures that you can use to answer the same questions that are provided.

We hope these tasks are a fun start to conversations about math with your students, your own children, or even friends over a virtual gathering! We look forward to hearing about your experiences and comments on Twitter, and we hope you are able to continue to inspire students to know, use, and enjoy mathematics even in such tumultuous times!