#DBC50Summer 24/50: Table Talk Math

You may remember from previous postings that before I became an digital learning coach/media coordinator, I was a fifth grade math teacher. I was initially hired to teach fifth grade students, and I taught math three times a day to three different classes. I loved it. Unfortunately, looking back I now realize that I was also a horrible math teacher. Other than the working problems on the overhead for the vast majority of our class time, I had another deficit. I was always good at math. Scary good. Because I never really struggled with math, I didn’t understand when people said they “weren’t good at math”, or when math didn’t come naturally to them. I thought doing 15 problems in the workbook would solve the issue. I didn’t realize it was a lack of mathematical reasoning and problem solving that was getting in the way for my struggling learners. I wish so badly that I had known about the resources in book 24 to help students see that math is fun and 100% applicable to their lives!

<proudly standing on soap box>

My least favorite utterance: “Oh, I’m glad you teach all of the math because I can’t do fifth grade math.” Really? Why would you even utter those words? As a grown (wo)man, you’re admitting that fifth graders can do more advanced math than you are capable of doing… yeah, that’s not impressive to share. Lose that sentence from your lexicon, please. While we’re at it… the whole “I’m not good at math”… let’s lose that one, too!

<stepping off soap box, #sorrynotsorry>


Book 24 is Table Talk Math by John Stevens (yes, THE John Stevens that co-authored The Classroom Chef with Matt Vaudrey) and it is an incredible read! I love that it is a quick, easy read, full of wonderful information and stories about John and his family! I find that this is another book that strikes me more as a parent than as a teacher.

There are several key points I’m taking away from this book. One is holding conversations with your child. I am so guilty about giving my daughters answers rather than asking them questions. I get so tired of hearing “why, mommy” when I’m at home. My sweet girls get the worst of me. I’m sure several of you that are teachers AND parents can identify with that, too (and if not, please tell me you can because it’ll make me feel like slightly less of a failure… thanks). By the time I get home in the evening (yes, evening), I’m exhausted and dreading helping with homework (thankfully my daughters’ school has an amazing principal who doesn’t allow homework beyond reading and a couple math problems), getting showers taken, supper, and bedtime. I’ve been with students all day (and I love them, don’t get me wrong, buuuut), all I want is some alone time or time to converse with an adult, and the girls want my undivided attention. This, in turn, makes me a bit snippy toward them – my patience is lacking by 5:30-6:00 in the evening. I’ve got to do better; I’ve got to BE better for them. They deserve the same time and devotion, no… they deserve MORE time and devotion than my students get from me. I am their mother! I love how John shares the stories about his children, and how he changes from “Mad Dad” to “Math Dad”. I want to transform from “Mrs. Ray” to “Mom” with more finesse each day, allowing them to have the best of me. These relaxed discussions about math are a great way to move forward with this.

Another key point is that kids should struggle and have to explain their reasoning once they reach a decision. Our kids (personal or professional) should have to think! John constantly reiterates that the answer is not as important as the process to get the answer. If we have the kids explain their reasoning behind their answer, it shows the mathematical processes happening “behind the scenes”. Oh, and timed-tests… no bueno. Research proves it’s ineffective. Stop doing it.

Finally, the piece of knowledge I’m taking away and implementing are the tons of resources John shares within the book! I’ve got to be honest and say that I’m actually cheating just a tad on this one because I’ve already shared the resources with our math teachers, as of just a few minutes before writing this post. But you know what? There are 50 books and I’m pretty sure you’ll allow me to already have one implementation complete as we move into the 2018-2019 school year, right? Please?! (And if you’re a stickler for it being implemented “in the school year”… I started back to work today as an 11-month employee and sent the email with several of the resources in the book after reading and before blogging, so technically, it’s being implemented in this school year. Boom! Also, I have a back-up plan.)

Some of my favorite resources from this book are below:

John Steven’s Would You Rather Math is a phenomenal example of authentic choices students make, both as students and adults. These choices require (gasp) math!

Andrew Stadel‘s Estimation180 website gives multiple examples for estimating, showing a benchmark then allowing students to determine an upper limit (maximum) and a lower limit (minimum) before estimating. The exact amount is listed on the website for the students (read: adults like me) who can’t handle not knowing the precise answer.

Fawn Nguyen‘s Visual Patterns website is amazing! Giving us examples of patterns and having students find the next, or “nth” term in the pattern shows sound mathematical reasoning. I love that some of the patterns can actually yield various answers.

Another site that can showcase various answers is Mary Bourassa‘s Which One Doesn’t Belong! As long as the student can give reasoning, accept the answers!  This site is a great conversation starter! I love the idea of debating answers, and that this site can be used with all grade levels!

Finally, the Fraction Talks website, created by Nat Banting, is one that I will be using with my personal children regularly! I love the use of flags as fractional representation! Building a strong understanding of fractions will help as my girls, and students, get older and begin having to see fractions abstractly.

At my school, I am in charge of putting announcements on the TVs each day. Another implementation for this book is to use these websites as part of the TV announcements! Selecting one problem each Monday and Wednesday (or Tuesday and Thursday), students can discuss math at lunch with their peers (we have a TV in the cafeteria that runs announcements all day, as well as one in the school lobby before and after school). I’m looking forward to hearing these discussions and providing math teachers an opportunity to capitalize on these conversations without sacrificing class time.

I highly recommend purchasing this book, especially if you’re a math teacher! The resources are tremendous and as a former math teacher I found myself nodding along many times. If nothing else, the footnotes provided by John Stevens are hilarious! I love his personality! Feel free to visit his website at tabletalkmath.com and join in on the conversation on Twitter at #tabletalkmath. Finally, one of my very favorite blog posts written by John is the explanation of the cover of Table Talk Math. You can find it here titled “7 Reasons to Judge Table Talk Math By Its Cover”. Clever, right?

As always, join in the flipgrid conversation using the password DBCSummer! Many thanks to Andrea Paulakovich who had this genius idea that flipgrid could be used to conduct a global book reflection on all DBC, Inc books! The space is there if you’d like to use it, and likely isn’t going away, so start sharing!

I am so excited to reach Book 25! Released immediately after Table Talk Math, Alice Keeler and the late Diana Herrington knocked it out of the park with Teaching Math with Google Apps! And oh yes, it is that good! If you are a math teacher, and you are a Google school, and you don’t own this book – you should fix that now. Right now. Check back for the blog soon!

4 thoughts on “#DBC50Summer 24/50: Table Talk Math

  1. Thank you so much for this! I love how you summarized your reflections and certainly appreciate your interpretation. Here’s to hoping that more parents and teachers are willing to have more conversations with their kiddos!


  2. Pingback: #DBC50Summer 25/50: Teaching Math with Google Apps | AliciaRay.com

  3. Pingback: #DBC50Summer Book 21-30 Recap | AliciaRay.com

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