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Getting Started with Number Talks

October 26, 2017 / by Lily Jones

Are you using number talks in your classroom? If not, it might be time to start! Number talks are a great way to build students’ number sense through a short daily math routine. In her book Number Talks, Sherry Parrish describes them as:

  1. A five to fifteen-minute classroom conversation around purposefully crafted computation problems that are solved mentally.
  2. The best part of a teacher’s day.

Ready to get started? Follow these tips.

Make it a Routine

Number talks aren’t a one-off lesson. Instead, they're an opportunity to establish a consistent math routine in your classroom. Tch Laureate Kristin Gray created an amazing set of DIY videos focused on teaching math routines through number talks. Check out her videos for grades K-3 to get a sense of the kinds of routines you can include in your repertoire:


Though number talks are generally done as a whole group, this doesn’t mean they can’t meet the needs of all students. In fact, number talks are a great way for students at all levels of understanding to share their math strategies. In this video, watch how Crystal Morey uses checkins to assess her students’ learning during number talks. She then uses this information to tailor her instruction to meet her students’ needs.

VIDEO: Meeting Students' Needs in Number Talks 

VIDEO: Meeting Students' Needs in Number Talks 

Set Language & Math Goals

Talking about math gives students an opportunity to develop both math and academic language skills. This can be particularly helpful for English Language Learners. In this video, watch students learn perseverance and language skills through an engaging number talk. Then watch how sentence frames can set students up for success when discussing math strategies.

VIDEO: Engaging in Productive Struggle: Number Talks

VIDEO: Engaging in Productive Struggle: Number Talks

Keep Learning

Number talks can be a great addition to your math instruction, but any change requires a lot of new learning for both students and teachers. Watch how "teacher time-outs" can be used to pause instruction and to check in with colleagues for support.

Looking for more number talk resources? Check out our complete collection here.

Topics: Professional Learning, Lesson Planning, Differentiation, Math, Video Playlist, Resources

Lily Jones

Written by Lily Jones

Lily Jones taught K/1 for seven years in Northern California. She has experience as a curriculum developer, instructional coach, teacher trainer, and is also a contributing writer for Teaching Channel.

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