Want to help students to build computational fluency, important reasoning skills, and confidence in mathematics? Number talks are the way to go! Check out the resources below to see how and why.
I love Number Talks. When I start working with schools, Number Talks are what I usually recommend we explore first because they are bite-size and easy to implement, yet they give students so much bang for their mathematical buck. They are a great entry point for teachers to practice facilitating productive mathematical discourse (engaging students in communicating math ideas) and for students to learn the ropes of talking about math. Number Talks are also a key tool in boosting the mathematical mindsets of your students because the framework of a number talk gives students a safe platform to take math risks and feel valued for their ideas. Here are some important things to understand about Number Talks and why you should start implementing them right away.
What is a number talk?
A Number Talk is a short number sense routine (5 -15 minutes long) through which students practice mental computation. During a number talk, teachers present carefully chosen sequences of computation expressions or equations and students communicate their thinking about the answers through reasoning and justification.
What are the goals of a number talk?
What are the protocols that I should implement for an effective number talk?
How do I choose sequences to present?
Being intentional about the computation and visual sequences that we present students in a number talk is really important in helping students to make mathematical connections. Lucky for us, a lot of the work in choosing sequences has already been done for us. See the links in my lesson resources for places to start with choosing appropriate sequences.
Jo Boaler, founder of YouCubed.org and mathematical mindset pioneer, offers reasons for why number talks are very important in every math class, across the grades.
Another one from Jo Boaler: This is a classroom demonstration of a dot image number talk with a group of middle school girls. This example shows that dot image number talks can be done appropriately with K-12 students (or even adults!) and shows how visual number talks are a great place to start number talks with any class.
Math coach Kristen Gray has a math routines series on The Teaching Channel with several examples of number talks. Here’s one from a fourth and fifth grade combo classroom considering two-digit by two-digit multiplication. Notice that although many number talks include a series of expressions to consider, this number talk is conducted around one expression only. This allows Kristen to emphasize the value to multiple approaches.
A first grade example from Kristen Gray’s series on The Teaching Channel. During this number talk, Kristen engages students in a number string. She uses questions to make sure that she fully understands what the student is articulating, without making any assumptions about student understanding.
This website gives examples of number strings to use by grade level, accompanied by helpful blog descriptions of classes engaging in the presenting strings. Lots of great resources here.Grades K-12
Nat Banting is a genius and one of my new heroes. He has brilliantly taken the protocols of Number Talks and adapted them to images of fractions that invite students to explore, reason, and engage in dialogue around deep conceptual ideas about fractions. This one is a keeper.Grades 2-12 (K-1 teachers, make some adaptations and run with it!)
A great place to start with Number Talks is using visual representations... dot cards, ten frames, hundreds and hundredths grids. This site has a lot of these materials organized by grade bands.Grades K-5
This site has K-2 and 3-5 resources taken directly from Sherry Parrish's book that pioneered number talk routines. There are also example number talks with anticipated student strategies under the "free number talks" tab.Grades K-5 (upper grades coming soon)
Sherry Parrish, who wrote the book that helped start the number talk revolution, wrote this article that outlines five key components of effective number talks: classroom environment and community, classroom discussion, teacher's role, the role of mental math, and purposeful computation problems.
This article walks us through the "nuts and bolts of engaging students in number talks." Though these authors make a specific connection to the power of number talks in high school, this article applies to educators of all ages.
From the first time I read this article, the way I thought about fluency was forever changed. Though Jo Boaler engages us in thinking about brain research around fluency development, she does so in a way that's easy to understand and is accompanied by clear classroom practices to boost fluency. Number talks are her number one suggestion... check this one out.