One of my big “Ah Ha” moments this year came through researching Number Talks. I learned that I could decide what my Number Talk of the day would be instead of a prescribed list generated at the beginning of the school year, my Number Talks could be driven by my current unit strategies, preloading for future units, review strategies, or troubled spots that come up with students. FREEDOM for me the teacher!!!!!

I was driven with this new vision to implement Number Talks and make it an integral part of my math block, five days a week, (give or take) 10 minutes a day.

What did I learn from consistent Number Talks? I have found three areas of expected/unexpected outcomes:

- Strengthened in flexible thinking, examining errors, and student voice, number sense-
**Expected** - Strengthened use of Standards of mathematical practice-
**Unexpected** - Unveiling misconceptions, increase student confidence and motivation, my own increased number sense-
**Unexpected**

**Expected Outcomes**

**Flexible thinking-**there is more than one way to solve a problem in real life and in math class too! Number Talks allow students to see problems from different perspectives. I love the “Oh’s” I hear as someone explains their strategy and thinking in a way that no one thought of before. This gives students opportunity to reflect on and compare their solutions with other students in a safe environment, and try out a new one the next time.**The value of errors**in deepening understanding. We know through a growth mindset that students (and teachers) learn more when they make a mistake. Mistakes are celebrated and investigated. It is a victory to finally understand where the mistake happened and how to correct it.**Number Talks is a way for many students to have their voices heard.**Kids love to hear their voices heard and having their fellow students agree with their thinking is powerful, and also increases their mathematical confidence!**Number sense increase for students**. Students are better able to process computational skills. This is a skill that will transfer into math tasks, activities, and life.

**Standards of Mathematical Practices**

**SMP#1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.**We start a computational skill with easier calculations. But, as we continue the practice becomes more rigorous. Perseverance is celebrated.**SMP #3 Viable arguments****and****Critiquing others:**Students are ready to justify their strategy as they share out. On the other hand, students critique others reasons for their incorrect mathematical processes. Hands go up, students respectfully disagree and justify their reasoning.**SMP #6 Precise language**-I am amazed at the language that comes from my students (in a good way)! By my use of precise language to describe concepts, strategies, and properties, my students adopt the same vocabulary in their language. No coercion necessary; it’s natural and authentic. Love it!**SMP #7 Look and Make and Use of structure**When a student is sharing an algorithm for their mental strategy, I will write it out using algebraic reasoning. This is really eye opening when they realize we are talking the same thing! Also as we look at our board with all our strategies on it, we can point out that are many of the same things going on in all of calculations (structure).

**Unexpected Outcomes**

**A Window into students thinking**– I have unexpectedly uncovered many mathematical misconceptions during Number Talks. One day, for example, while calculating equivalent fractions, a student told the class his strategy of adding “one” to the numerator and “one” to the denominator to have an equivalent fraction. Did I have to say anything? No. Other students respectfully disagreed, and proceeded to “teach” this student a correct strategy to find equivalent fractions. Beautiful! This scenario has repeated itself many times.**Confidence and motivation**– As students contribute they begin to have a greater positive mathematical identity. I overheard a student saying the other day to their group, “I used to be not very good at math, but now I am really good at it”. It wasn’t until our daily Number Talks were devoted to multiplying decimals that students started having confidence in their computational skills in that area, more and more students were ready to share their strategies. Repeated experience with no stress or anxiety.**My own number sense**has increased with Number Talks. I have learned many strategies which expands my ability to see numbers differently. I am also more capable to mentally process an answer to a computation.

Resources

**A Number Talk video-****https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YV4o_U8K9aA**

**NCTM Article on Number Talks (2011)**** **

### Patty Reed

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Tom White says

Thanks! We were doing a number talk recently in my 4th Grade classroom and a student explained how she solved 2-digit by 2-digit multiplication problems in her head. Nobody – including me – understood her, but she consistently gets them all correct!

Francis Jequinto says

I like Johanna had never heard of a Number Talk prior to your blog post, so I’m glad you wrote it. I always wondered how math teachers would elicit those richer, deeper conversations that (as an outsider) seem so prevalent and natural in ELA and Social Studies courses. The richness of the feedback you can gather is incredible it looks like – it’s so powerful a tool the way you use it at uncovering the reason students are making mistakes.

Mary Moser says

I actually was just comparing with a colleague how I quickly add numbers compared to her addition method as we were tallying votes yesterday. I liked being able to see some of the work that is happening in the elementary school and finding connection to our work at the secondary. One of our biggest needs at my school is extended response in the mathematics classroom. I wonder if there’s a way to build in “Number Talks” and the capturing of student voice into writing products?

Patty Reed says

Johanna and Chris-This is really ironic that you ask about Chemistry Number Talks because I just had this conversation with my husband. He is a chemist and as I was having him prof read my blog he was saying how he wished his teachers could of used these strategies with these higher level calculations. Number Talks is also successful in the high school settings, I’m not sure how popular it is but it can work there as well. I think you would use the same design, with the same expectations for students. I know that kids learn so much from each other, confidence is among the many benefits from number talks, and definitely high school chemistry students could use more of that!

I would see you start with a calculations that are easier, (even in high school number talks they start with the basics). Proceed to go from there, your kids will help guide you. My favorite resource is Making Number Talks Matter from Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker, designed for grades 4-10.

We will have to continue this conversation…..

Chris Gustafson says

It’s always joyful when there are unexpected as well as expected benefits. What would the reading or writing or chemistry version of Number Talks look like?

Johanna Brown says

Boy, am I out of the elementary loop! I have never heard of Number Talks before but the goals are exactly what I am looking for in my chemistry students. From what you have seen in your classroom, do you think that this could translate to more complex and applied mathematical reasoning? I was planning on having the first six weeks of chemistry be calculator free for students to work on their mental math, and number sense and I think that number talks could be a good way to build confidence and work on problem solving. Thanks for the insight into your world and I’d love to hear your thoughts on having older students try it.

Aaron Brecek says

I started the online class covering the 4 productive mathematical practices (found at http://k12.wa.us/CurriculumInstruct/MathScienceProfDev.aspx) and have seen number talks done before. I’m excited to integrate them into my classes next year.

Thank you for sharing your benefits as it just gives me further encouragement to make them a part of my weekly routines.