A number talk is a daily routine in ALL grade levels, that requires students to demonstrate flexibility in working with numbers and solving basic problems without using paper and pencil to find the solution. Consider how number talk routines can be used to help your students think more flexibly about whole numbers and operations with fractions and decimals.
Number talks require students to be flexible in their thinking about numbers and operations. In addition, students increase their ability to articulate their thinking, develop their mathematical vocabulary and refine their mathematical communication skills through the use of number talks.
How to Get Started with Number Talks
Like many other math routines, creating norms for the community and helping students feel like they are working in a safe space is crucial. In order for number talks to be successful, students must understand how to actively listen and hold a respectful exchange of ideas. Before implementing number talks in the classroom, brainstorm a list of classroom norms for how community members will participate and behave during the routine.
Teacher and Student Roles
During a number talk, it is the teacher’s job to encourage students to share their solution strategies, ask questions to clarify understanding, and direct the learning of the class. Number talks require students to explain their solution strategies, convince others that their strategy works, and listen to and pose questions about the strategies of others.
Extending the Thinking
Because the goal of number talks is to help students communicate their thinking, after a student has shared his/her strategy, there are several questions that can be used to extend and help a student better shape his/her thinking.
Final ThoughtsThe strategies that students use and are able to learn from doing number talks is invaluable! Students can build a mental storehouse of strategic tools through this process. In addition, the rich discussion that occurs between the students and the teacher during number talks is truly amazing! Imagine the possibilities if all of our students had the reasoning, critical thinking, language, and communication skills that result from regular participation in number talks each day for about 12-15 minutes.
· Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding Grades 4-10 by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker
· Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies by Sherry Parrish
By: Tessa Levitt, CA BOCES Professional Development