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Monday, June 3, 2013

Preparing for Number Talks

Welcome to Chapter 2! Today, we are discussing how to set up our classrooms and preparing for Number Talks.

 Procedures & Expectations

One of my favorite parts about Number Talks is how little preparation their truly is! There are only 4 things to remember…

  1. Designated a location in your classroom for number talks

  2. Provide wait time

  3. Accept, respect, and consider all answers

  4. Encourage student communication

Now while these rules sound simple, if you are used to be the coach in your classroom rather than a member of the team, these maybe a little more tricky to implement than what it appears at first glance.

 Choosing a location

In my 1/2 ELD room, the students moved away from their desks to a carpet set in front of the whiteboard for Number Talks. The students used whiteboards that were in a basket beneath the whiteboard to help them solve problems if needed. I always viewed this as a time waster until… my 4th grade classroom!

I tried to hold a Number Talks with my students at their table groups. It was a complete disaster. There were too many distractions, the students were too far apart from one another, and it just didn’t have the comfy coziness of an intimate conversation that moving to the carpet did.

I believe that this is one of the key essentials to success with Number Talks.

Wait Time

I have struggled with this ever since my university came out with the “no hands raised” policy. I find this to be good practice but at the same time, I have been ingrained from childhood to raise my hand as quickly as possible with the answer. Wait time is necessary so students actually think through their answers instead of saying the first thing that pops into their minds.

Oh how this is a skill that I still need to learn. Someone asks me a questions, I answer. I rarely stop to think as I know that I must raise my hand as quickly as possible to answer. Do your students have this problem? What happens to the child who can’t raise his/her hand the fastest? They simply stop thinking and trying. Why bother? Misty will raise her hand for some reason even to say I don’t know.

I love the silent thumb and the raising of a finger to demonstrate understanding. I love that those that think faster are challenged to keep thinking to discover how many ways they can answer the same question. I love that students are learning communication skills to better understand themselves and others. And I love that we are teaching students to accept other people’s perspectives of the same situation.

Discussion Time

Prompts help students formulate their answers in a respect matter. Just like we use sentence stems to scaffold writing, it is important that we use these same prompts when teaching our students how to explain their perspectives. Again, this is such an essential life skill and I love how it is incorporated into math!

Number Talk Prompts

I have this sign hung up in my room. I created it in both the blue (as shown) and red. My cooperating teacher has math color coded blue in her classroom. In my room, it is red. By color coding subjects, it is easier to find things.  You can grab your free copy of this for a limited time in my store.


In order to be successful with anything in the classroom, you have to hold your students (and yourself!) accountable for what you teach. I ensure that I have enough time to teach these strategies by scheduling it as a separate subject and at a different time of day. This is one of the tricks my cooperating teacher taught me.

Number Talk lesson planning

This is how it looks in my planbook.  I also found this great rubric online that could also be used. Personally, I do not grade these but rather simple observe. I do incorporate our strategies into our regular math time and upon occasion a question my appear on a math unit exam.


Below are a few questions to help you reflect upon Chapter 2.

  • What area will you designate in your classroom for Number Talks?

  • What signals will you use to allow for wait time?

  • How will you encourage/ensure all students to participate?

  • How will you scaffold conversations?

  • How will you hold the students accountable for the materials discussed?

Feel free to join our book study at any time! To catch up, simply visit my link all about Number Talks. Be sure to either bookmark this page or follow me as I will be posting more throughout the year on how I use this great resource! If you still need to purchase the book, simply click on the picture below.

Grab the picture and add to your post on Number Talks

Number Talks - Think Wonder Teach

Preparing for Number Talks


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