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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Number Talks Book Study: Part 2

Welcome to week 2 of our book study on Number Talks.  This is a great book for K-5 classroom teachers, special educators and math specialists.  It is also a great book for administrators and other educational professionals to read to learn more about what good math teaching looks like.  

Join me each Sunday as we discuss the week's reading and make connections to our own teaching practice.  Leave a comment on this blog post or head over to Facebook and leave your thoughts there.  If you have your own blog and want to write a post about it on your own blog, just leave the link in the comments section.   

Posting Schedule
Part 1: January 11th Chapters 1 & 2
Part 2: January 18th Chapter 3
Part 3: January 25th Chapter 4
Part 4: February 1st: Chapters 5 & 6
Part 5: February 8th: Chapters 7 & 8
Part 6: February 15th: Chapter 9
Thank you to all who participated last week!  We had a great discussion and many folks left insightful comments and shared ideas.  I love the enthusiasm I am seeing for this great book! 

Chapter 3: How Do I Develop Specific Strategies in the K-2 Classroom?

Now that we know what a number talk is and how to prepare for them, it is time to dig in to the specifics of using number talks in the K-2 classroom.  Here are the four goals for K-2 number talks.

Developing Number Sens

This one gets covered by almost every number talk.  The whole process of sharing  and comparing solutions and deciding if they are reasonable develops number sense.  Since number sense is the foundation for conceptual understanding of all mathematics its importance can not be overemphasized.  Knowing if a solution is reasonable should not be taught separately in an estimation unit but should rather be part of everyday mathematics instruction.  

Developing Fluency with Small Numbers

Not developing fluency with small numbers is one of the biggest obstacles I find kids who struggle in math face.  I will often be asked to work with a second or third grader who is struggling and much of it can be traced back to not having fluency with small numbers.  If kids don't get fluency at this level, they can not develop fluency with larger numbers or other operations.  "Fluency is knowing how a number can be composed and decomposed and using that information to be flexible and efficient with solving problems." 


Subitizing can be one of the most fun things for kids (and adults!) to practice.  There are so many engaging ways to give kids a chance to subitize.  If you are new to the idea of subizing you can read more about it here or check out my favorite subizing app.  

Making Tens

"Making groups of ten provides a link to developing and understanding place value and our system of tens."  Kids need lots of opportunities to practice grouping things into tens.  In my school, we are big fans of 10 frames and using Counting and Estimating Routines to help kids think in tens.  

Models and Tools

Here is a short list of models that should be available and used in every K-2 classroom
- Dot images
- Rekenreks (number rack)
- Five, Ten and Twenty Frames
- Number Lines
- Hundred Chart

I am happy to say that we have all of the above models at out students' fingertips.  We do a slight variation on the number line in K+1 and use a number path.  Stay tuned for a future blog post about the difference between a number line and a number path and what the research says about introducing number lines to early. 

Using Real Life Contexts

Math is a part of real life and it is our job to help kids see that.  Providing them with a context is at the heart of helping kids see why learning math is important.  It helps kids think of mental images and evaluate the reasonableness of the answers.  Math should not be something you are taught with naked numbers and then asked to practice in a context.  Give kids a contextual problem and let them develop an understanding of the mathematics.  If you want to read a lot more about why this is important, check out our Children's Mathematics Book Study.  

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas about Chapter 3!  


  1. Great post! Thanks for all of the links to previous posts and for the app recommendation! Love your subitizing post--lots of great ideas there. Thanks for stopping over to read my Number Talks Chapter 3 book study post as well. :0)

    Take care--

    1. I love subitizing and it is hard to believe I was a teacher for a few years before I ever even knew what subitizing was. It is amazing how much you don't learn in college about teaching math.

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Tammy,
      It is a great mix of research and practical hands on stuff. The theory is there and then it moves into specific examples which is always great. I have big plans to use the DVD that comes with it during professional development this year.

  3. I love how this book gives a variety of strategies for addition and subtraction with the kids' thinking. I did my first number talk last week in a 2nd grade classroom and began with 11
    + 12. I had thought it was pretty simple, but I got 6 different answers from the kiddos! Yikes! By recording the different strategies, though, it was magical to see when the kids who had suggested incorrect answers realized what they did wrong. By the end of the session with the last problem, the first student gave an incorrect answer, and when the 2nd child gave his answer, which was correct, I heard lots of kids sigh. I told them I loved it since it meant that they all knew that the answer they got was right! I absolutely loved the experience and can't wait to do more in other classrooms (I am a Math Coach K-5) and unleash the power of these Number Talks.
    Ann Elise

    1. Hi Ann Elise,
      I am so glad you tried your first Number Talk! It is so exciting to me to see teachers start on this journey! It will completely change your teaching practice. I find that when I get more than one answer to the initial question that it is a question at a good level for my students. When everyone has the same answer, their isn't as much excitement or engagement. Number talks are a great way to offer math problems that are at students' instructional level which is a bit past what they can do independently. Having a few answers to your initial question is a great indicator that the kids are going to learn something from your number talk. Now if you have LOTS of answers, the question could be a bit to challenging for your students and you may want to start with something a bit easier and build back up to it.

    2. I love this post! I'm not familiar with the book, but I've learned lots of these strategies in professional development classes. Once you start teaching this way, you will never want to go back to your old ways! I'm going to share this post in an upcoming blog post.
      Not very fancy