Number Talks – A Lesson in Action

Number Talks – A Lesson in Action

Are you looking for short, powerful activities that can significantly increase your students’ mathematical understanding, while at the same time build computational fluency?

If you read our last post, Number Talks What Are They and Why Should You Do Them, you know that Number Talks can be a powerful way to build mathematical thinking in your students.  They are highly engaging activities that provide students with the challenge of figuring out their own solutions to problems in a way that makes sense to them. Through number talks your students' mathematical reasoning will grow leaps and bounds. 

Following is a lesson example to help you envision how Number Talks can be put into action in your classroom.

First, present your students with a mathematical problem that they can (preferably) solve mentally.

A Number Talks Lesson

When students have an answer, have them put a private thumb up (if students raise their hands, students who do not yet have answers may quit trying to solve the problem).

A Number Talks Lesson - Hand SignalWhen all students have a thumb up, ask them to turn to a friend and share both their answer and how they know their answer is true.Teach students to keep thinking after they have an answer.  Ask students to either think of another answer to the problem presented (if applicable) or think of another way to solve the problem (i.e. use a different strategy). Have students put an additional finger up for each additional answer/idea they come up with.

A Number Talks Lesson - Hand SignalA Number Talks Lesson - Hand SignalAsk students if anyone came up with a different answer, or came up with the same answer, but used a different strategy.  Allow students to share and engage in discussion.  After all students have had an opportunity to share their thinking with a partner, call on one to share their ideas aloud. Record ideas. Ask students to show “me too” signal if they came up with the same answer using the same strategy.

It is important to accept all answers, right or wrong. 

Because students are always asked to share how they know their answer is true, they will oftentimes make corrections themselves while processing through the problem.  If not, another student will recognize that an incorrect answer needs to be adjusted. 

It is important to teach your students how to respectfully respond to their peers using sentence stems. 

These are the stems we use in our classroom:

  • I agree with you because
  • I respectfully disagree because
  • I like what you said about
  • I would like to defend my answer
  • I would like to add
  • I used the strategy
  • I do not understand.  Can you please explain

There is a link provided below to make it easy for you to download a set of free number talk sentence stem posters.

So, if you are looking for quick, engaging, fun activities that will change the way your students think about and process mathematics, you may want to give number talks a try. You will NOT regret it!

If you would like to give number talks a try, but do not have time to plan for them each day, you are in luck!

We have created yearlong programs for grades kindergarten through fifth grade that are thoughtfully designed for the specified grade level.

We wish you the best! And Happy Number Talking!


p.s. If you found this article helpful, please link, share, and comment!

Get The Year-long Program

Click here to see our year-long Number Talks programs

Number Talks K-5

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 Number Talks Posters



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