4 Number Talks & Examples to Try Today

Number Talk Ideas Activities Free

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had your whole group mini-lesson turn into a 20-minute lesson? 🙋🏻‍♀️ I’ve been there, too! That’s why I love starting guided math with number talks! Number talks are an incredibly powerful way to cultivate a community of mathematicians in your classroom.

Because whole group mini-lessons are designed to be short, it’s important to plan your number talks accordingly. This will give all students a chance to actively participate, learn new strategies, and problem-solve in a collaborative setting.

Today we’re talking all about how to start your guided math routine or calendar time with easy-to-implement whole-group math chats in 5-10 minutes!

3 Easy Steps for Getting Started with Number Talks

Begin by presenting a problem. Whether on an interactive whiteboard, teaching easel, or chart paper, present a problem for your students to solve. This can be something as simple as writing on the board “Ways to Make 10.”

Next, give students time to solve the problem. Some students may be ready to share before others. To encourage all students to actively participate, have them hold a thumbs up at their belly-level to signal they’re finished. You can also encourage students to hold a certain number of fingers next to their belly for the number of strategies or ways they’ve come up with to answer a problem.

Finally, students will share strategies and solutions. When called upon, students will share the answer(s) and how they got them. The teacher should encourage students to explain their thinking and record it for others to see.

If you’re brand new to number talks, here are the three easy to steps to remember:

  1. Present the problem or scenario.
  2. Solve the problem.
  3. Share strategies and solutions.

4 Number Talks Ideas To Try

1.) Ways to Make __

Pick a number. Any number. It can be as big or as small as your students can handle. Keep it super open-ended and give students time to come up with different ways to make the number. They can use addition, subtraction, ten frames, base ten blocks, coins… the list goes on and on! 

2.) True or False

Give students a problem like this: 3 + 4 = 6 + 2. Students will determine if this equation is true or false and explain how they know it’s true or false. 

For another variation of this, you can give a “Make it True” problem, where you pose a problem like this: 3 + 4 = __+__. This will elicit multiple answers that can be true. You can always use subtraction, too.

3.) How Many in the ___?

For this number talk, you will create a story with a visual. You can print out images or draw them on the board. I used bees in a beehive, but you can get creative! 

In this example, the problem states there are 12 bees. How many are in the hive? Even though students can see the 3 bees, you don’t want to come right out and say it. Let students do the synthesizing!

4.) Ten Frame Flash

Students love this one! Flash a ten frame for 3 seconds, then hide it. Make sure they do not have time to count. Students will try to figure out how many are on the ten frame you flashed! To differentiate, use a double ten frame!

Be sure to download this FREE Number Talks Guide where I’m sharing 12 easy-to-implement ideas and resources to get your students talking about math!


Download 12 easy-to-implement number talk ideas, examples, and resources. Start implementing number talks today!

Keep Number Talks Under 10 Minutes

While number talks can be used anytime during the school day, I love to start guided math with a whole group number talk. Almost all of guided math is taught in small groups, so starting with a number talk gives all students the opportunity to hear from one another. 

Not sure how to squeeze this all in? Check out this post with sample guided math schedules!

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Download 12 easy-to-implement number talk ideas, examples, and resources. Start implementing number talks today!

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