Number Talks 101: A beginner's guide

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Welcome, I’m so glad you stopped by to chat with us today about Number Talks. My name is Lisa Fain and I get to teach and create with my sister Samantha Gibby. Yes, you heard right! We both teach 1st grade at the same school. We are The Primary Sisters. Today I want to share with you, how Number Talks can help build number sense.


What are Number Talks?
Number Talks are ongoing daily routines that allow students the opportunity to build number fluency. Number Talks offer students a chance to talk about math with their peers. They are not trying to figure out what the teacher wants but are totally engaged in their own sense making process. Students are focused on solving the problem using a strategy that they choose. As the year progresses, students will begin to see how number relationships work for them. Where one student may know addition facts, another student may see numbers as groups of or one more or one less. In first grade we begin with subitizing problems. Subitizing is the ability to see how many without counting. At the beginning of the year I use dot plates to flash as quick images. Students discuss how many. Someone might say" I see 5 dots", another student might say "I see a group of 3 with 2 more." Both are 5, yet students see the dots differently and process in a way that makes sense to them.

What does it look like?
Present the problem to the class- The teacher is the facilitator and presents a problem to the class.  After presenting the problem the teacher becomes the listener.
Give students time to think- This is the most crucial part. Students need time to think and discuss their thought process with their peers. Wait time is crucial.
Have a signal- Have a visual cue so you know when students have a solution. I do not allow my students to raise their hands. Instead they lay one finger on their knee to signal they used one strategy to solve the problem.  I give a thumbs up to acknowledge them and then encourage them to solve the problem in another way.
Share time- Call on someone to share their thinking with the class. Focus on the strategies students are using, not just who has the right answer. Share time is very important because we want to get students to explain their thinking. Allow more than one student to share to reinforce there are many ways to solve a problem.

                                             What Resources do you use?
One of the best things about Number Talks is that they require few materials or prep time. Problems are to be solved mentally. You can come up with 2-3 problems you want your students to solve. Number Talks are great for warm ups before your math instruction. Sherry Parrish’s book Number Talks offers great ideas for grades K-5. This is a great place to start so be ready to be amazed!

I would love to hear from you about what Number Talks look like in your classroom.

Check out our Winter Math Pack. This pack contains fun and engaging activities to build number sense and practice computational fluency. of games and printables using dot die to practice subitizing. Fill in the 100 chart will help students become fluent with number patterns. These printables are great for math centers or morning work.
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by Lisa Fain

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