Number Talks

I am thrilled to be sharing about my favorite subject to teach… MATH! If you’re just beginning Guided Math, fully implementing Guided Math, or simply thinking about diving into it, this series is for you!

This month, I wanted to share with you something I’ve implemented in my classroom that has been a total game-changer: NUMBER TALKS!

First things first: After you finish reading my post, head over to Amazon and order yourself a copy of the book Number Talks by Sherry Parrish. You won’t regret it! (Affiliate link)

So, what is a Number Talk? A number talk is a way for students to talk and share their math thinking with classmates. No paper and pencils needed! I try to have a number talk every day, and they take us 5-7 minutes to complete. In 2nd grade, our number talks generally focus around addition and subtraction. However, before we ever begin number talks, we must set up expectations.

Just like any classroom procedure, number talk expectations are a must. When I pose a problem on the easel, I give my students sufficient think time before any sharing ever occurs. When students have an answer and strategy to share, they hold up one finger over their chest. As students wait for share time, they are encouraged to solve the problem using a variety of strategies. As they come up with additional ways to solve it, they hold up more fingers over their chest. It’s important that students understand that their strategies for solving the problem are equally as important as getting the correct answer!

Peer conversations are VITAL for successful number talks. Once students have had sufficient think time, I record all of the different answers (yes, even the wrong ones) that students got. However, I do not indicate if they are correct or not! That’s my students’ job! As I call on a student to share their thought process for solving the problem, I record their thinking on the easel or chart paper as they indicate what they did. The rest of the class is NOT QUIET! They are allowed to respond to any misconceptions as needed. They don’t need to raise their hands, either!

If a student shares something that’s incorrect, I do not tell them right away. I always wait to see if another student recognizes the mistake, and then we’re able to talk about it and work through it! Most of the time, students catch each other and help share the correct thinking. It’s important to have students teach each other their strategies. My favorite thing to do is have my kiddos share with a partner, but then after everyone has shared, I call on someone to share how THEIR PARTNER solved the problem. It really makes the kids listen, engage, and ask questions of their partner to make sure they’re understanding it correctly.

A kid saying, “Well I just knew the answer,” doesn’t cut it anymore. We know there’s deep thinking going on, so as we share our strategies each day, students get the hang of what it looks like to show their work from our countless examples during number talks! In the picture below, you’ll find an example of a number talk we had this year and how I recorded the strategies my students shared.

You can see that in the possible answers, I have an arrow by 52 (I know you’ll all understand exactly why some of my students got this answer). But again, I let my STUDENTS share why that’s wrong. My first friend that I called on broke apart the 25 and subtracted two tens and then 5 ones, and my friends who initially got to gave a collective, “OHHHHHH!!!!” Friends, THEY GOT IT! And it makes my teacher heart so happy to see class figuring these out together and teaching each other!

If you haven’t implemented number talks in your classroom, I highly suggest giving it a try! It really has transformed the way my students talk and think about numbers, and it’s the PERFECT way to start your guided math time!



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