My name is Jamila and I am the 5th grade teacher in the FAA Jersey City Campus.  Last year, we were trained in a different way to do math, or rather to think differently about math.  “Numbers string” is a routine proposed by Math in the City, a New York research center, that is quite interesting.  Indeed, it’s been a few months now that I have been practicing numbers strings with my students and I already see the results.

First of all, I will briefly explain what this consists of. There are mini-lessons to develop number sense that “will support your students in developing a variety of mental mathematics strategies, as well as an understanding of the traditional algorithms.  These tightly structured series, or “strings” of problems are likely to generate some strategies and big ideas underlying an understanding » of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, etc.

Once a week, we gather together at the carpet corner for 30 minutes to think about a series of related problems.  These problems must be solved mentally, with students explaining their thinking orally!  This requires students to make the effort to accurately formulate their mathematical path, which is not easy at first!

Whatever the level of the student, they can answer because the sequence of operations begins with very simple situations, and grows increasingly complex. There is a real progression of difficulty.  The rest of the operations are very well thought out!
Here is an example to illustrate.

I find this method rather good for making sense of operations.  Indeed, I noticed that my students often performed operations in mechanical ways without thinking too much about what is behind their calculations.  With numbers strings, students must explain each stage of their thinking by using visual patterns (open number lines, array models, etc), making relationships with other calculations and strategies. The verbalization of the whole procedure allows students to make sense of what they are doing and why they are doing it.

To conclude, I think that the approach proposed by Math in the City is adapted to our students, and it is felt in the quality of their work. They do things less mechanically, instead using more intentionality, and they take more risks with new procedures.

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