This Week In Our Classrooms: Number Talks


I started to hear about Number Talks a couple of years ago, but they seemed a bit silly to me; and like a waste of time. I WAS SO WRONG! They are quite amazing, and I’ve used them with Grade 1s, all the way up to Grade 8. They can last 40 minutes, or be quick 5 minute warm up activities, and they can be used in all strands. There are a lot of great resources out there to hep get you started if you’re not sure.

I started my Number Talks this year by using this website last week. It has pictures of shapes, numbers and graphs. I would show an image and ask my students to decide (independently) which one didn’t belong. The beauty of this is: no wrong answer, no right answer, so no risk – any student can give an answer. I ask them to justify it, and it was amazing to hear some of the mathematical reasoning and language that my students were learning.

This week, my students have been desperate to know how old I am. I don’t know why – but they were obsessed. I told them if they needed to know, then,  it would be our math problem. I used  a variety of math clues. I knew there was some information that they may not be able to use (e.g. prime numbers) but that if they used all the information that they would get to the answer with mental math only.

Here were my clues:


I gave my students about 5-8 minutes to try to solve it, then I asked them: “Okay, tell me how you got your answer” as I wrote their thinking on the board. I was too excited about the math and forgot to take a picture of their responses, I’m sorry!

Some of my students used the information about my mother, and her age – although that gave them a birth year of 1986 – and if they had stopped there, they would have been wrong! They had to use all of the information. I had students saying “WAIT! 31 isn’t divisible by 5, so that can’t be right!” and it was just so awesome to see them engaged and excited to talk about math!

I am planning on using Number Talks as part of my daily math plans.


I have also been using number talks in my classroom for the past few years. They’re getting more and more popular in Ontario, and a few years ago I had a math expert in my class once a week who was working on some research and she got me hooked. That year I had a 5/6 split with IEP’s ranging from Kindergarten to grade 4 it felt almost like teaching in a one room school house! Number talks were a great way to bridge the gap and show the weaker students some strategies used by the stronger ones to solve challenging problems.

This year with my 3’s number talks have been one of the best parts of my day. The kids love the low stakes involved and are often more willing to take risks because they don’t feel like they HAVE to. My number talks are usually super traditional and I have been using the number strings for grade 3 from the Number Talks book.

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This was our number talk on the 3rd day of school. They were working on making 10’s and finding friendly numbers. These were ‘so easy’ so I had A LOT of great participation. I use them as an intro to almost every lesson and it gets the kids into a great math frame of mind!

A great resource to get started:

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