Number Talk

Number Talks
Posted on 12/21/2018
Ask any adult and they will most likely agree that math is hard. It was my least favorite subject in school. Panic would set in once a week as we stood at the chalkboard waiting for the teacher to call out a math problem. Then the race would start to see who was able to get the answer fastest. I never was fast and therefore I always lost. But those days are long gone. Now educators approach teaching of mathematics in a very different and less competitive way. One way, we are approaching math is through the Number Talk model.  Number Talks were designed to get students engaged in purposeful, intentional math and allow them a voice in their learning and understanding. You won’t see any worksheets or journal pages coming home. But you can see great understanding by posing a simple problem. During Number Talks, students are given a math problem to solve. For example, the teacher may write 4x6 on the board. Students then think about the problem, solve the problem, and then prepare to explain how they solved it to the class. Next, the teacher facilitates a class discussion about the problem. Students share their thinking while the teacher records all answers right or wrong on the board. The teacher may pose questions like “How is your strategy different from other students?” Or “Can you explain to others how you solved the problem?” and last you will hear “Which strategy is most efficient?” During Number Talks, all students are required to participate but instead of panic at the chalkboard the environment is safe and mistakes are celebrated. At Lewis, we hold Number Talks daily for about 15 minutes each day outside our math block. This additional 15 minutes allows students to explore number sense and place value. Our student in Kindergarten and First grade focus on number sense. They discuss problems that are visual with the use of dot images and rekenreks.  As students progress from 2-5 their discussions involve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. A few classrooms are even experimenting with fractions. Although we’ve only been doing Number Talks for a short amount of time, we’ve seen some great gains in mathematical thinking. Our students are now able to solve problems using multiple strategies and they approach math with a critical eye. We can’t wait to see the strategies they use after a full year of Number Talks.