Number Talks

What are Number Talks?

In a Number Talk, the teacher displays a problem on the board, and students solve it mentally.

In this routine, teachers de-emphasize speed and correct answers, and emphasize process and communication. Students verbalize their mental math strategies, are encouraged to make connections between representations, think flexibly, and ultimately build fluency and Number Sense.

Number Talks can be done with everything from subitizing, to operations with fractions, and with all sorts of scaffolds including dot talks, splat routines, and relational flip cards.

Number Talk Routine

1) Display or write the problem horizontally on the board.

2) Give students quiet thinking time. No paper or pencil -- students complete the problem using a mental strategy. When ready with an answer, students place a quiet "thumbs up" on their chest. If they have another strategy, they indicate this with a thumb and their index finger.

3) When the majority of thumbs are raised, collect answers and record them without judgement or indication of correctness.

4) Invite students to share their strategies and record them. Listen carefully and don't rush the thinking. Ask if anyone has an alternate strategy and help students understand the various representations and connections between the strategies.

More Information

Check out a summary of the Number Talk routine, including tips for the classroom by Dan Finkel.

Along with the K-12 Math Task Collection with a few Number Talk prompts and images linked to SK outcomes, here are other resources:

PD via Twitter: @mathforlove, @Trianglemancsd, @SteveWyborney, @BerkeleyEverett, #tmwyk

Check out the sample Number Talk classroom videos below.

Dot Talk

Subtraction Number Talk

Fractions and Decimals Talk