# How to Do Number Talks – Step by Step

Are you ready to get started with number talks in your classroom? Here is a step-by-step walk-through of everything that should happen during a number talk. Be sure to grab the **FREEBIE** I am sharing at the end of this post!

## Gather Students

The first thing you should do is gather your students in a common area. If it is possible, encourage students to sit in a circle or semicircle to promote discussion. You want to create a sense of community during number talks. Students should not bring any materials with them. They will be working on solving these problems mentally.

## Display the Number Talk Problem

Display the math problem you will be working on in a location where all of the students can easily see it. Your problem might be an equation, a picture, a graph, or a visual representation. If you are working on an equation, write or display the problem horizontally when you can to promote the use of a variety of strategies.

## Students Solve

After you display the number talk problem, students should work on solving the problem independently. Number talks are meant to be done mentally, but depending on the level of your students and the problem you are working on you may choose to allow students to use paper and pencil or other manipulatives. Encouraging students to use mental math encourages them to use their conceptual understanding and strategies and not just memorized algorithms.

## Allow Wait Time

There are many students who equate being good at math with being quick at getting answers. By allowing plenty of wait time you are showing students that it is ok to take their time and think through what they are solving. When given an appropriate amount of wait time, all students can grapple with the problem and work to come up with a strategy to solve the problem.

Wait time can be used after you present the number talk problem and after students give their responses. Allowing students to have think time to process what they have seen and heard helps them make sense of their learning.

## Student Signals

Instead of waving a hand in the air, which is sure to be distracting to those still working, have students give a silent signal to show you that they are finished and have an answer.

I like to have students show a thumbs up in front of their chest to show me they are ready. If they have more than one solution, they can put up more than one finger.

A silent signal allows students to show they are ready without distracting the rest of the class or making others feel like they are behind and have to rush to finish.

## Accept Answers

Call on a variety of volunteers to share their answers. At this time, only ask students to share their answers and not their strategies.

Record all answers students give, even if they are incorrect. Do not give any reactions as to whether a response is correct or not. We want to encourage students to share without having to worry about whether they are right or wrong.

Allow as many students as possible to share their answers, but do not force anyone to speak up if they are not comfortable.

## Share Thinking and Strategies

One of the most important steps of a number talk is student sharing.

This is the time when students have a chance to explain their thinking, defend their answers, share strategies, and learn from each other.

The teacher’s role in number talks should be that of a facilitator or guide. Students should be doing most of the talking, explaining, questioning and discussion during a number talk.

Starting sharing with a partner share or small group turn and talk is a great way to give all students a chance to share. It also gives students a chance to rehearse what they want to say before sharing it with the whole group.

Next, call on volunteers to share their strategies and explain their thinking. Feel free to ask clarifying questions along the way if a student gets stuck or if their explanation needs more detail.

As a student is sharing the teacher should record the student’s thinking in words, equations, models, and/or pictures.

By recording students’ explanations you make the strategies visible, help all students understand the strategy, and model different ways to record their thinking as they work through a problem.

## Further the Discussion

After a student finishes their explanation, you can further the discussion by asking engagement and comprehension questions to get the rest of the class involved. Some questions you might ask are:

- Can someone explain ______’s strategy in their own words?
- Who did it the same way ______ did?
- Does anyone have any questions for _______?
- How is this strategy like _______’s explanation?
- Did anyone else get the same answer but do it differently?

Over time, students will become more and more proficient with number talk discussions and begin to share their thinking and respond to each other’s thinking without prompts from the teacher. You will be amazed at how much the level of discussion, math vocabulary usage, and class participation will increase over time!

## Grab a Freebie

Sign up to grab a free set of number string number talks. This free set includes 20 different number talks to get your class started with implementing this powerful math routine.

CLICK HERE or on the image below to grab your free set of number talks!

## Read More About Number Talks

Creating a Learning Environment for Number Talks

Number Talks and Number Strings

## Ready to Go Number Talks

I have a variety of ready-to-use number talk resources available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

CLICK HERE or on the image below for some resources that would be great to use with your class!

## 2 Comments