Math Talk/Number Talks
Number talks are brief discussions (5–15 minutes) that focus on student solutions for a single, carefully chosen mental math computation problem. Students share their different mental math processes aloud while the teacher records their thinking visually on a chart or board. It is effective because:
- students move away from memorization and toward mathematical reasoning;
- students verbalize their reasoning to each other;
- students are exposed to multiple strategies to solve the problem; and
- feedback is immediate, either from the teacher or other students.
What do they look like?
- Present the class with a problem (students are seated in a common area with no math tools).
- Give think time. Use silent signals to encourage all students to think and respond.
- Call on a student. Have the student explain their thinking and then give their answer. Focus on the process not the answer.
- Offer the strategy to the class. Students will elaborate (if correct) or ask questions (if misguided).
- Invite other students to share their strategies.
Try using “hands-free” questioning. Once we call on a student to answer out loud, all other stduents are done thinking.
Teachers capitalize on this by:
- asking provocative questions;
- providing safe opportunities for students to verbalize reasoning ;
- not providing judgement or answers too quickly—stepping back from the role of the expert in the room;
- embracing and capitalizing on erroneous reasoning;
- providing opportunity for all students to think;
- allowing enough wait time;
- using hands-free questioning;
- allowing students time to think and then respond quietly to partners rather than out loud to the class;
- explicitly teaching students how to have group conversations, to ask each other to elaborate, to ask clarifying questions, to invite contributions from others;
- restating student thinking and encouraging conjecture and predictions; and
- asking students to agree/disagree/explain reasoning.
- Fraction Talks
- Humphreys, Cathy and Parker, Ruth. (2015). Making Number Talks Matter: Developing Mathematical Practices and Deepening Understanding, Grades 3-10. Stenhouse Publishers.
- Parrish, S. (2010). Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies. Sausalito, CA.: Math Solutions.