What are number talks and why do we do them?

At New Life Academy we seek to make math a purposeful learning opportunity for every student. During this first semester we have implemented number talks in our 3rd-5th grade classes. Number talks are short, daily exercises aimed at building conceptual meaning around numbers. They encourage students to visualize problem solving, calculate quickly, use higher level thinking, and be flexible in the math strategies.

A typical number talk would follow these steps:

  • Present a problem. No materials needed, number talks are a mental thinking exercise
  • Give think time. Rather than the typical raise your hand when you have an answer, students give a thumbs up when they have solved the number talk in one way. To encourage higher level of thinking and reasoning, they continue to think of more ways to solve the number talk and put up more fingers as they discover them.
  • Explain the process. When the teacher calls on a student, the student is asked to explain their thinking with words, not just give an answer.
  • Teacher highlights student thinking. As student is explaining their thinking the teacher writes down exactly what they hear the student say.
  • As one student shares his/her thinking, others will give a thumbs up if they also were thinking in that way.
  • More students share their strategies. At the end of a number talk there may be 3-5 ways of thinking about the number that are recorded on the white board giving students opportunity to learn from their peers.

Watch the video below to see a number talk in action.

Through the implementation of number talks we are striving to develop fearless learners, critical thinkers, and in-depth problem solvers, prepared for learning at the next level.