Yvonne Harari

Chronicle 6


Question: How will incorporating number sense routines at the start of my
lessons influence my teaching?

Statement of Purpose: Last summer during my first semester in Bank Street’s
Math Leadership program, I learned a lot about developing number sense that I
didn’t know before. As I learned, I felt excited about bringing all this into my
classroom. I had to read selections from books about number sense, and one
book in particular, Jessica F. Shumway’s book Number Sense Routines,
resonated with me. Initially I was nervous because I didn’t know how I could
develop my students’ number sense within the constraints of time and a set
curriculum. Through this book however, I saw how a few minutes at the
beginning of my math lessons could have a big impact on developing my
students’ number sense and communication of their math thinking. I want to see
how implementing these routines at the beginning of my math lessons will
influence my teaching.

Going through the year mindfully engaged in action research has been
nothing short of transformative to my practice. I have seen influences not only on
my teaching, but also in my views of myself as a leader and a learner. I have

Robin 10/7/2015 10:15 AM
Comment [1]: I can use this as my
opening statement in my dissertation! J
Robin 10/7/2015 10:16 AM
Comment [2]: Wow…that’s incredibly
powerful. I couldn’t be more pleased…

found that incorporating number sense routines into my classroom has
influenced me in 6 different but integrated ways.
The first finding of implementing number sense routines in my classroom
is that my planning has improved. I had to look more deeply at the curriculum
lessons my school was using so I could pull out the deeper understandings and

Robin 10/7/2015 11:09 AM
Comment [3]: Powerful right off the bat…

find routines that aligned or supported the lessons. In turn, I became more
engaged in the planning process because I was involved in making the content
my own. By doing this throughout the year, I’ve been able to see the gaps within
the curriculum that have actually been filled by using number sense routines. I’ve
also become much more responsive in my planning and teaching. I get a lot of
formative assessment data from the routines so I can see exactly what my

Robin 10/7/2015 11:19 AM
Comment [4]: Very powerful perception
of your evolution…
Robin 10/7/2015 12:04 PM
Comment [5]: Very powerful evidence to
share with others…

students understand and need more help in. I found that when I see advanced
thinking or misunderstandings arise in a lesson, I can work on these in the form
of a routine as quickly as the following day.
Through implementing routines I also found that specific teaching skills
improved greatly. My questioning skills have been in development since I began

Robin 10/7/2015 12:06 PM
Comment [6]: This is a substantive
example of very practical, on-the-ground
data for this “transformative”
experience…which is always compelling for
teachers (the practical part, I mean…).

teaching, but this year they have truly flourished. Implementing routines gave me
a consistent way to hone my questioning skills. I got better and better at asking
questions that made students think more deeply about their understanding of
math concepts and that probed their thinking. I’ve also improved a lot in using
visuals to represent student thinking. I clearly remember really wanting to do this
in the past but not being sure how to go about it. The routines called for me to
write down student thinking consistently, so it became second nature for me to

Robin 10/7/2015 12:14 PM
Comment [7]: I’ve often said (and I’m
sure you’ve heard this) that the art of asking
questions that get students to reflect is an
art to be cultivated. I’m so pleased that you
feel this particular ability has flourished.

do this. In fact, it got to the point that if an impromptu explanation of student
thinking came up, I needed to get to the board and write it out. There have been
many times this year when creating a visual helped my students find patterns or

Robin 10/7/2015 12:15 PM
Comment [8]: Further evidence of your
constructivist pedagogy…

think more deeply about math, so I am sure that improving in this area has
helped my students as well.
Another major influence the routines have had on my practice has been
the classroom environment I’ve been able to create around math learning. I’ve
been able to build a class culture where students communicate, listen, reason,
conjecture, question, and think deeply about math concepts. Infused into this is
the idea that mistakes are a big part of learning in math. There have been many
times when students made mistakes during a routine and I was able to use that
as a learning opportunity. While these learning habits were a part of my entire
class culture and not exclusive to math or number sense routines, I recognize
that the time I spent during routines on creating this environment has given me
the space to consistently express my expectations to my students. In addition to
the class culture around mathematics, I also had a huge shift in how I approach
teaching math. I steadily transitioned this year from being a “giver of knowledge”
to a “facilitator” and from creating a teacher-centered learning environment to a
student-centered one. Instead of teaching students strategies to solve problems,
they taught and learned from one another. Instead of saying if an answer was

Robin 10/7/2015 12:19 PM
Comment [9]: And this is true simply
because of the focus on number sense
routines? How interesting…Do you think it’s
because number sense routines are this
small, focused piece of content and not a big,
complex lesson? I’m asking because you’re
making me think about how to support
teachers who say that developing discourse
is hard because their students don’t know
how to talk to one another. But it seems to
me that if there is a focus on one small piece
(like a series of number sense routines), it
would be easier to develop discourse
around this than attempting to start with a
big exploration or performance assessment.
Robin 10/7/2015 2:20 PM
Comment [10]: Fascinating…so very
important…Often we think our expectations
are clear because we noted them clearly, but
having the space to consistently express
expectations makes them much more a part
of the culture and not simply something
students have to remember to do. (This
makes me think about the expectation of the
norms of our program…and how often I find
power in referencing them…)

correct or incorrect, I asked students to think about how they got to their answer
and if their answer made sense. I put more thinking responsibility on my
students, while I remained a more neutral party. The structure of the routines

Robin 10/7/2015 2:21 PM
Comment [11]: Great examples, Yvonne.

allowed me to continually evaluate my role in the classroom so that I was able to
eventually step back enough to allow my students to construct their own meaning
of math. As a result of creating a student-centered environment, I also gained
confidence in my ability to facilitate larger class explorations that deviated from
the school’s curriculum lessons. So in effect, the routines have changed how I
teach math entirely.
Another finding, one that has had a huge affect on many of my other
findings, is that my understanding of what number sense is and how to build it
has improved tremendously. In the past, I really struggled to help students who
didn’t have good number sense. I had vague ideas about what they knew and
needed to know but I had no idea how to get them where they needed to go.
Through the number sense routines, I’ve learned so much about the elements
that go into building number sense. I’ve learned first-hand that students need to
develop an understanding of quantities and number concepts, subitize and

Robin 10/7/2015 2:22 PM
Comment [12]: Whew…that’s a huge
finding…It’s interesting, isn’t it? The more
you let go, the more control you actually

Robin 10/7/2015 2:23 PM
Comment [13]: Your intense focus would
logically lead to a deeper understanding…
Robin 10/7/2015 2:24 PM
Comment [14]: I think some struggle
with what number sense even means…
Robin 10/7/2015 2:27 PM
Comment [15]: Right. Number sense is so
much more complex than

unitize, use numbers flexibly, develop strategies, find patterns, and connect to
the big ideas in math. I’ve been able to use this knowledge to help students in my
class with weak number sense to develop their number sense, something I was
unable to do in the past. I was also able to create plans for these students quickly
and easily because of my direct and consistent experience with lots of different

Robin 10/7/2015 2:38 PM
Comment [16]: Not unable…just not

tools during routines. I also improved in my ability to create and utilize preassessments. Since I knew what understanding looked like from my experiences
with the routines, I knew what to look for so I was able to understand the math
behind the questions I asked students. In addition to helping students with my

Robin 10/7/2015 2:43 PM
Comment [17]: This is essential, not only
for our students, but as you move into a
coaching/professional development role,
you must have the ability to support
teachers in naming the math…

newfound understanding of number sense, I was able to help other teachers as
well. I worked with one new teacher in particular to help her build her own
number sense. I couldn’t have helped her without having built my own
understanding first (although helping her also deepened my understanding).
Something else I found since beginning to implement number sense
routines is that my vision of math learning has changed. I always knew

Robin 10/7/2015 2:45 PM
Comment [18]: Right. That was my
point…and this is so incredibly powerful,
Yvonne…I feel as though you’ve captured
the essence of teaching as learning in this
synthesis. Very powerful indeed.

theoretically that all students can learn math and while I did believe it, I knew
there was a gap in my understanding as to how to help all students. One of my
biggest moments of clarity came through a student who struggled greatly in
math. He was that student that I wouldn’t have known how to help in the past.
Through working with him, I realized that I need to meet students where they are
rather than where I think they should be. It was a huge realization for me that I
can’t will him to be where I want him to be but I have to help him build his number
sense from the ground up. Without the routines, I don’t think I’d have had a point
of reference to know where to start with him. I wouldn’t have known how to help

Robin 10/7/2015 2:50 PM
Comment [19]: An authentic and humble
acknowledgement, Yvonne. No one ever
argues with the philosophy that all students
can learn…What’s hard to realize is that not
all students can necessarily learn from
me...unless I’m willing to really dig down
and figure out how to support the students
who struggle mightily…right?
Robin 10/7/2015 2:50 PM
Comment [20]: Powerful…and very wellput.
Robin 10/7/2015 2:50 PM
Comment [21]: Smiling here…

him. Working with this student helped me understand more about number sense
and how important it is to acknowledge where students are in their development
so I can help them move forward. This philosophy extended to other students as
well who were relying on more basic strategies to compute, like counting on their
fingers. I knew that they were consistently being exposed to more advanced and
efficient strategies and that they would begin using them when they were ready.
In essence, I began to understand constructivist learning for myself through
direct personal experience. I also removed rote practice of math facts from my

Robin 10/7/2015 2:51 PM
Comment [22]: So very, very powerful…

Robin 10/7/2015 2:53 PM
Comment [23]: This makes me stop and
think about how to support teachers in
embracing the idea that with exposure
comes understanding …eventually. Do we
really believe learning is a process? If so,
how deep does our trust in the process
actually go?
Robin 10/7/2015 2:53 PM
Comment [24]: Whew! So wonderful…

classroom including timed tests and flashcards as I noticed that speed and
memorization were poor indicators of math understanding.
Through implementing routines, my confidence in my math teaching has
grown, which helped me begin influencing others and allowed me to see myself
as a leader. With all the previous findings, it is clear that I now have a much
better understanding of number sense as well as how to plan and teach math for

Robin 10/7/2015 2:54 PM
Comment [25]: Wow! That’s huge…How
did it feel when you first made this decision?
Were you worried about anything? Did
anyone else know you did this?

Robin 10/7/2015 2:55 PM
Comment [26]: There is a direct and clear
cause-and-effect here…

understanding. Implementing and reflecting on routines have helped me develop
expertise and the confidence that I have something valuable to share with others.
This has led to (or maybe created) many leadership opportunities such as
leading a workshop on number sense routines and creating an online learning

Robin 10/7/2015 3:09 PM
Comment [27]: Agreed.

The action research process and my findings are closely connected and
have helped me think about learning in general. I found that the direct experience
of consistently engaging in a meaningful action research question and

Robin 10/7/2015 3:12 PM
Comment [28]: Another wonderful
outcome of action research…

periodically reflecting on it has taught me exactly what my research findings have
taught me: that people learn best when they construct their own understanding
and make meaning of ideas for themselves. Number talks sounded interesting
when I learned about them last summer but it was a very different experience to
actually implement them, grapple with which routines to use and when to use
them, see how engaged my students were and how their number sense grew
over the school year, and see the changes in myself as a teacher and then as a

Robin 10/7/2015 3:12 PM
Comment [29]: Yes…

leader. I had to make sense of number sense routines for myself, and now that I
have, I own them completely.
I thought about this idea a lot when I planned for my number talks
workshop for teachers in February. I knew that I could lecture all day long and
there would be no meaning for teachers in what I was saying, so I created a
number sense experience for them so they could understand the benefits for
themselves. I guess my ultimate conclusion is that meaningful experiences
create deep understanding and lasting change.

Future Implications:
My action research this year has allowed me to truly understand and own

Robin 10/7/2015 3:25 PM
Comment [30]: That’s why I always
emphasize the focus on you as a learner and
what you have to do before you can consider
what your students need to learn. I am
convinced (even more so after your
research) that immersing ourselves in our
own learning first (with the focus first on
ourselves and then on our students) makes
for a much more powerful influence on our
teaching. This is the essence of my approach
to action research—the focus on ourselves
as learners…You could have taken those
ideas you learned last summer about
number talks and just implemented them,
couldn’t you have? Then if they worked,
great. If they didn’t, you might have just
dismissed them…The focus on our own
learning process is key…and I feel that
action research is a powerful way to focus
on our own learning…
Robin 10/7/2015 3:26 PM
Comment [31]: Yes! And you can share
this ownership with others so they, in turn,
own this learning! How wonderful!

number sense routines. With this understanding, I hope to create professional
development experiences for teachers around number sense routines. I feel
comfortable sharing videos of myself doing routines with my students or
modeling a routine for other teachers because I’ve done it so often. More than
that though, I want teachers to try them out and begin to own them in their own
classrooms. I am really passionate about the topic now because I’ve seen the
benefits for my students and myself so clearly. I think this passion and
enthusiasm can help other teachers get excited about trying it out.
I’m curious to see how implementing routines influences other teachers’
instruction and whether the influences are similar to or different from my own
findings. I am also interested in seeing how routines will play out in my new
position as a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade above grade level math teacher. I’m excited

Robin 10/7/2015 3:29 PM
Comment [32]: Sharing video would be
really powerful…especially if they’re not
perfect. You can invite them to assess your
own facilitation and this may lead to the
trust necessary to deeply coach a colleague.
Robin 10/7/2015 3:30 PM
Comment [33]: And you have researched
it and have valid findings to back up your
ideas and beliefs about number sense
Robin 10/7/2015 3:30 PM
Comment [34]: No doubt…

Robin 10/7/2015 3:31 PM
Comment [35]: More research…It would
be a very powerful experience to perhaps
co-author an article as a small group.

about playing around with routines at the different grade levels. I will need to take
what I learned this year and apply it to different contexts, which will help me
continue exploring number sense routines and refining my teaching skills.

The action research journey has been a great learning experience for me.
While not always easy to consistently implement, the value of number sense
routines was clearly evident early on. After reflecting on my action research as a

Robin 10/7/2015 3:32 PM
Comment [36]: The research? Or the
number sense routines?

whole, it is incredible to see the arc of my transformation. I am excited about
sharing my findings and bringing my experiences to other math educators.

Robin 10/7/2015 3:32 PM
Comment [37]: So very pleased that you
found this experience so fulfilling, Yvonne.

Shumway, J. F. (2011). Number sense routines: Building numerical literacy every
day in grades K-3. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.
Parish, S. (2014). Number talks: Helping children build mental math and
computation strategies. Sausalito, CA: Scholastic Math Solutions.

Robin 10/5/2015 5:07 PM
Comment [38]: Nice job on the APA,