Number Talks

There's a summer online book study for the book
Number Talks being hosted by

I've had the pleasure of reading this book and got some wonderful activities to use with my Firsties...

Here's some of my thoughts, ideas, and finds about this wonderful resource...


Number Talks are great springboards in helping students develop a better understanding of the number concepts and skills.  The better a student’s number sense and cardinality, the more prepared they are to begin memorizing and becoming fluent with Math Facts J

Number Talk Ideas:
Implementing Number Talks…Helpful Hints:
*Try to do every day for a small amount of time (10 minutes)…a few minutes often is much better than a lot of minutes every once in awhile.
*Establish a routine for showing you’re ready or that you agree quiet thumb up
*Ask questions and let the kids do the talking!
         What did you see?
         How did you see it?
         Did anyone see it a different way?
         How did you think about that?
         How did you figure it out?
         What did you do next?        
         Why did you do that?
         Did someone solve the problem a different way?
         What strategies do you see being used?
*Use different mediums…whiteboard, chart paper, smartboard
*Name/label the strategies that your students talk about using…
         make a ten
         counting on
*Create a safe environment during the number talks

Math Number Talk Resources Site:
Get2MATH K-5 is a wonderful resource site with many number talks already set up and ready to go.
         combinations of 5
         combinations of 5+
         combinations of 10
         combinations to 20

These cards can be used to help children relate the addition to the subtraction facts as well as develop the sense of part-part-whole.  The idea for these cards comes from an activity in John Van de Walle’s book “Teaching Student Centered Mathematics K-3”.
 How to use the cards:
 Each card has a numeral for the whole and a dot pattern for each part. Cover one of the dot patterns with a flap of paper or fold over the card so that only one part can be seen.
 Have the child say the missing part that is covered up and/or the number sentence, i.e. “Eight is five and three” for an 8 card showing five dots and hiding three.
 Make sure to have the child explain how they knew the missing part.
I Wish I Had
You show the child the missing part card, say the amount of the dot pattern that is not covered up, and say that you wish you had the numeral. For example with the 8 card that has five dots showing and hiding three, you would say “I have 5; I wish I had 8…how many more do I need?”

Choose a number in your head… then have the students guess what that number is by process of elimination.  For example if your number is 10 and a student guesses the number 7….you would say “my number is more than seven”. Then they have to tell which numbers need to be covered up and why they need to be covered.  This is a great game to get the kids thinking in terms of more than and less than. Each guess helps them narrow their focus of a number choice and should eliminate the shouting out of random numbers. 
         Start the year with numbers 1-10, then add 11-15, then 16-20 and keep adding more and more numbers to the chart to make the game more challenging.

Number Squeezethis is not a link to my creation, but is available on the web
Similar to ‘Guess My Number’ but using objects to move on a number line to get closer to the number I’m thinking.

Ten Stick
Using a linking cube stick of 10 cubes (5 red and 5 blue), I show the kids the stick of cubes and begin asking them to tell me what they notice…there’s no fear in what you notice, because you can “notice” a lot of things…colors, shapes, amounts…etc…there’s really no one right answer when you ask “What do you notice?”…
Then I put the stick behind my back and break off a piece…when I show the kids and ask “What do you notice now?”…we can begin to create number bonds and equations…Remember…it’s the thought process I’m trying to get at…
what do you notice…
tell me how you know you’re right…
tell me if you agree with what so and so just said…
why do you agree with so and so …why do you not agree

Ten-Frame Magnets
I show the kids the ten-frame with a number of magnets on the frame…then I turn the frame to me and tell them to watch what I’m doing…I can then add magnets (with exaggerated movements to the board) or take some away from the board.  Then I’ll ask them to tell me what they know…
What number they do you think is on my board now?
…then I’ll reveal the board and have someone tell how they knew the number I was hiding.

Number of the Day (Place Value practice with Ten-Frames)
Add this to your calendar time:  Show the number of the day (which is the number of days in school) using ten-frames.  Each day have a student add another dot to the ten-frame.  Put adhesive magnet squares on the back of the ten-frames and then you can move them around.  Students can then show different ways to make the number of the day….think about when it gets to double digits like 25 or 56… they can use two addends.  Record their equations on a white board or chart paper.  Double digits mean they can slide the ten-frames into two columns to show the two addends.  Then the class counts aloud each addend (practicing counting by tens) and confirms that the expression is correct.  You could also do 3 addends.
Make the activity more teachable by talking about….”no matter how we move the numbers around, what number will we always have?" 

Think Math – “The Answer Is…”
Every week put a new “answer” on a class Think Math board.  As soon as a new question goes up, students can write a question that matches the answer on a sticky note and place it on their class number.  Think of the possibilities of the questions that could be written and then explained by your students.  There are as many different correct answers as there are students. You’ll need to take several weeks of modeling and going over correct answers before the majority of students are able to correctly write number stories that match the answers, but the learning will be well worth the effort!

Be sure to check out the great resource for your future with Number Talks! 


  1. I have visited Get to Math K-5. It is great site and I thank for the suggestions.

  2. I love this post! I just attended a week long PD by Math Solutions. One full day was just on this book!! We will be implementing in our K-2 building next year and we are so excited! Thanks for these resources.
    Curious Firsties

  3. Thank you for sharing this helpful post.