I don’t necessarily love everything about teaching math. But I DO love number talks.
What are number talks?
Number talks were created to help teachers engage with students in mental math. Number talks can be a way to help students make sense of mathematics, develop computation strategies, communicate about math, and work on reasoning skills. They are a short, 10ish minute, math conversation aimed at building number sense. Students are generally seated together away from any math tools. Students are presented with a problem, are given tink time, then share out methods on how they mentally solved the problem. Your job is to facilitate the conversation, ensure you are recording students correctly, and to call on students for solutions. You can ask students to elaborate or ask questions to help clarify.
Want to read more about the rationale behind number talks? Find chapter 1 of Number Talks, Grades K-5: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies by Sherry Parrish here.
Digital Number Talks
In an ideal situation, you would do a number talk every day for the first 10 minutes of class. But I know time is precious. To save time, consider doing digital number talks twice a week, instead.
My favorite program for digital number talks is Flipgrid. Flipgrid is a video based discussion board that can be monitored by teachers and found at https://info.flipgrid.com/. As a fast rundown, flipgrid works by providing a video or text prompt to students. Students then reply to your prompt through video. Students can watch each other’s videos and respond to them. It is integrated with google for easy logging in, and students can access with a quick code.
Like a good podcast? Check out this episode of Teachers Talking Tech regarding Flipgrid Fever and why I love Flipgrid.
To do a number talk on Flipgrid is pretty straightforward. You will create a grid for students to work on, and post a prompt for students to respond to. I generally work on the same skill for about a week. For example, if I’m working with my 5th grade students on multiplication and the method I am hoping they will master is doubling and halving, I choose specific problems that will lend themselves to solve a problem this way. One great problem for this would be 25 x 48. I would post this problem for students to verbally explain to me on flipgrid. If they use doubling and halving, great. If they have another method that works, also great. The goal is to make sense of numbers and figure out how numbers work.
In the image below, you can see the student view of Flipgrid. Students will see your prompt along the top and have the option to record a response. They can also watch other students’ responses to see how they solved the problem. If you have comments turned on, students can respond to each other’s videos in order to connect with one another.
What I love about digital number talks is that you are able to hear all students’ thoughts, and not just the select students you call on that day. All students are held accountable to come up with a solution. I truly believe that even if students are simply listening to another student’s response and then replicating each others’ methods, when they speak it aloud, it helps to internalize that method so that maybe the next day, they can use that method, too.