# The Ultimate Guide to Number Talks

Do you use number talks in your classroom? Have you been looking for examples and information to help you be successful with number talks in your upper elementary classroom?

This post has everything you need to learn all about number talks and how to use them in your classroom. It even includes some FREEBIES at the end! You can also shop for number talks in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

## What are Number Talks?

Number talks are 5-10 minute activities that help build number sense, mental math, and flexibility with numbers in our students. They are generally focused on one problem or series of related problems that students complete individually and then discuss as a class. Number talks are the perfect activity to help students learn about different math strategies and how to be effective communicators in math.

## What are the Benefits?

There are many benefits of doing number talks. Some of the biggest benefits are that they build number sense, flexibility with numbers, math communication skills, and confidence in students.

Read all about the many benefits of number talks in the post:

What Are the Benefits of Number Talks?

## Creating a Safe Learning Environment

One of the key components of number talks is the discussion and sharing of answers and strategies.

It is important to create a classroom environment where students feel comfortable taking risks, sharing ideas with the class, and giving feedback to others.

Some things you can do to help create a learning environment for number talks to be successful are setting norms for discussions, modeling how to respectfully disagree, and encouraging all answers and ideas.

You can read more about how to create a positive learning environment for math talks in the post:

Creating a Learning Environment for Number Talks

## How to Do Number Talks – Step by Step

Number talks follow a predictable structure that encourages independent solving and group discussion. A typical number talk follows these steps:

- Gather the students in a group.
- Display the problem.
- Students work on solving the problem independently (often problems are solved using mental math).
- Provide plenty of wait time for kids to wrestle with the problem and try strategies.
- Students give a silent signal to show when they are ready to discuss.
- Call on student volunteers to share answers. Accept all answers at this time, even if it is incorrect.
- Discuss, justify and defend answers and solutions.
- Teacher records student thinking as they are sharing their strategies.
- Optional- if time allows, work on a similar/related problem.

You can read more details about each step of doing a number talk in the post:

How to Do Number Talks – Step by Step

## How to Encourage Discussion

The most valuable part of a number talk is the sharing of solutions and strategies and the discussion amongst the students.

When you first start doing number talks with your class it is important to model how to respond to others’ thinking and how to respectfully disagree or share opposing ideas.

Creating a display with discussion sentence stems can be very useful in helping students know how to structure their thinking and plan what they want to say.

I created a FREE set of number talk discussion speech bubbles that make the perfect bulletin board or wall display! This freebie even includes a matching student bookmark! You can grab the FREE set of discussion prompt speech bubbles by CLICKING HERE or on the image below.

Read more about how to support and encourage discussion in math class in the post:

Math Talk – Ways to Encourage Discussion in Math Class

## Number Talk Examples

There are many different types of problems that can be used in number talks. You can use a simple equation, an image, or a series of related equations.

There are also many different problem structures.

Here are some examples of the types of problems and structures I have used with upper elementary students:

- Target Number
- Estimation Jars
- Dot Images
- Which One Doesn’t Belong
- Would You Rather
- Patterns
- Number Collections
- Number Strings
- True or False
- Alike and Different

To read more about different number talk examples, and see images for different types of number talk ideas you can read the post:

Number Talk Examples for Upper Elementary

## Number Talks vs. Number Strings

A number talk can be conducted using a wide variety of math problems.

Number strings are one specific type of problem that can be used to do a number talk.

In a number string, students are presented with a series of related problems that can be solved using a specific mental math strategy. There are usually 3-6 related problems in a number string.

While number talks in general focus on generating many ways to solve a problem, number strings are usually used to highlight a specific strategy.

You can read more about number strings and see more examples in the post:

Number Talks and Number Strings

## Planning Number Talks

When you are first starting to use number talks, or if you are trying out a new type of problem, it is helpful to take some time to plan out your math talks ahead of time.

When planning a number talk I like to make notes on the problem I will use, follow up or extension problems, possible strategies I anticipate the students might use, questions I can ask to get the discussion moving or to clarify student ideas, and math vocabulary to highlight during the number talk.

I created a FREE number talk planning sheet that you can grab HERE or by clicking the image below.

You can read more about how to plan number talks and see an example of a completed planning sheet in the post:

I hope this ultimate guide to number talks has provided you with all the information you need to feel confident to successfully use number talks in your classroom.

Now all you need are some number talk problems to get you started…….

I’ve got you covered!

I have two number talk freebies to share with you that are perfect for upper elementary math classrooms!

## FREEBIES for You

The first FREEBIE is a set of 20 number strings.

The second FREEBIE is a set of 20 number talks highlighting different number talk structures and problem types.

Grab either of the FREEBIES by clicking the images below.

I also have a wide variety of number talks in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

CLICK the image below to see all of the ready-to-use number talks I have available!

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