The month of February is a great time to practice math talk using fun holiday themes! You have Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day, and National Bubble Gum Day. Use chocolates, heart candies, gumballs, groundhogs, and more to invite kids to engage in math talk. If you aren’t sure what math talk is or how to get started, take a look at the fun math challenges below. They are perfect for elementary school students during the month of February.
What is Math Talk?
When presenting students with number talks, the goal isn’t to solve the problem; it’s to figure out ways to solve it. All kids solve math problems in different ways. Consider it: adult generations solve addition and subtraction problems differently than students. Let them discuss the many ways there are to solve the problems in front of them.
Here’s how a number talk starts:
- A math problem is presented to the class.
- Mental math is used to work through the problem.
- Kids work independently to figure out the problem in front of them.
- Children share their solutions and how they reached that solution. This is done as a whole group where a few students share or in small groups where each child gets to share.
- Teachers or students record the different strategies that worked on a chart, clipboard, or a whiteboard.
- These number talks typically take 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the problem’s difficulty. Using them daily is so beneficial to student progress.
Continue reading to learn about some math talk ideas you can use during the month of February.
Estimate the Amount of Candy Hearts in the Jar
Place candy hearts in a jar and display them at the front of the room. Ask students to estimate how many candies are in the jar using strategies they think up. Invite them to share their strategies once they do some thinking. Some students might conclude that they counted how many run along the bottom and multiplied it by how many candies tall the jar is. You will end up with various ways to solve the problem and really get your students thinking.
If you celebrate National Bubble Gum day, fill the jar with bubble gum or gumballs instead!
February Word Problems
Provide students will simple word problems about heart candies, sweet chocolates, and soft teddy bears. These stories might go something like this:
- Valerie bought 17 teddy bears for her friends. She needs to give away 12 of them. How many will she have left over?
- Charlie has 55 heart candies. 13 of them are red, 17 of them are purple, 8 of them are blue, 19 of them are yellow, and 23 of them are orange. How many of the candies are green?
- Henri and Jose are sorting their Valentine’s chocolates. They have chocolates with cream fillings, chocolates with no fillings, dark chocolates, white chocolates, square chocolates, circular chocolates, and rectangular chocolates. What are some ways they can sort their chocolates together?
Heart-Shaped Number Bonds
Use broken heart shapes to discuss number bonds with your elementary students. This math challenge helps them remember different number bonds and lets them use math talk to determine the bonds. Talking through the number bonds will solidify them in their brains.
Count the Room Math Challenges
Display images of Valentine-themed items or Groundhog Day items around the room. Give students a clipboard with a recording page to count and write the number they see on each card they find throughout the room. Have students write how they counted each object. Did they count by twos, fives, or tens? Let them share with a partner to offer different perspectives to their peers.
Math Talk Bulletin Board
Create a classroom math talk bulletin board that reminds students how math talk should look. Research has proven the importance of teaching students how to effectively speak about math and other subjects. A math bulletin board keeps students accountable using talk stems and tools of reference.
Included in these bulletin boards kits are:
- Math talk banner
- Maths talk banner
- Let’s talk banner
- 12 accountable talking stems
- Student reference cards
- Blank templates of the talking stems
Groundhog Day Pictographs
As Groundhog Day approaches, ask your students to vote on whether they think the groundhog will see its shadow. Display a pictograph using little cutouts of groundhogs on the board. Ask students to use math talk to compare the votes. Which has more and which has less? How many more and how many fewer? Have them discuss how they counted the rows and columns, if there are any. Share results with the class.
Steve Wyborney has some AMAZING estimation powerpoints that give students visuals to work through independently and with a group. He provides clues to reach the answer that prompts even more math talk in the classroom. These are great for math block warmups or exit tickets each day. They really get the brain working, and the kids love them!
Math talk is so important to understand how to solve equations, especially as the equations become more complex. Include math challenges and the use of math talk in your daily routines in the classroom. I hope some of these ideas will bring some fun to the end of your winter months and get kids talking up a storm about math! Thanks for reading!
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