Texas Mathematics Teacher Fall/Winter 2020 - 20

Number Talks:
A Great Tool to Promote Number Sense in Young Mathematicians
Why Are These Steps for the Teacher Important?
To create a safe environment for learning, norms must be
established and reviewed before a Number Talk begins in
order to establish routines and promote a positive culture
of learning. The goal of utilizing norms is to ensure that
every student feels confident in their ability to share their
thinking without any judgement from their teacher and
peers. The additional steps are important because the
steps define the role of the teacher as a facilitator. The
teacher is responsible for pacing the number talk, allowing
students adequate "think time", and clearly recording
students' strategies so that other students can see and
understand the thinking process of their peers. When
these steps are in place, the routine becomes a structured
process in which students can rely on the safety of norms
and routines.
Number Talks: Steps for the Students
1. Students think of ways to solve the problem.
2. Students use a hand signal to show they have an
answer and a strategy to share.
3. Students share answers to the problem.
4. Students share their strategy to defend an answer.

Why Are These Steps for the Students Important?
During Number Talks, students take control of their own
learning by articulating their computational strategies
and reasoning through the strategies of their classmates.
Because students are doing most of the talking, thinking,
and demonstrating, protocols must be in place to ensure
that the conversations are structured and purposeful.
Using hand signals is one protocol that can be used
to allow students opportunities to communicate their
thinking.
Number Talks: Hand Signal Protocol
1. Students place their fist on their chest during
"think time" to show that they are thinking.
2. Students show one finger when they have one
strategy to share. If/when students have additional
strategies to share, students show the number of
fingers that reflect the number of strategies they
have to share.
3. Students use agree/disagree hand signals to
communicate their thinking in response to other
students' shared strategies.

The process offers a great start to
"
our mathematician's workshop and

Using hand signals is a discreet process that allows
students the opportunity to think at their own pace and
removes the pressure to rush their thinking if/when
another student is ready with a solution. Using hand
signals is an important step because it allows all students,
particularly those students who might be shy, the
opportunity to participate in Number Talks, communicate
their thinking with their peers, and engage with their
peers and the thinking shared by their peers. When
protocols are in place that allow students to share their
strategies verbally or use hand signals to communicate
their thinking, all students have an opportunity to
contribute to the conversations.
How Do We Get Students Talking During
Number Talks?
In order for Number Talks to be successful, students must
be able to communicate their thinking and collaborate
with the other mathematicians in the classroom. If
students struggle to express their thinking, here are some
tips to try.
Use "Turn and Talk"
Assign Number Talks partners. Partner A explains his/her
strategy to Partner B. Partner B responds with "I agree/
disagree because ..." Partners swap roles and repeat the
process.
Show an Example
The teacher displays a strategy used by a previous
student and asks, "Let's look at this strategy from a
previous student. I don't remember his/her reasoning, I
only remember what his/her work looked like. Can you
determine what strategy this student used and share
your thinking?" The students are given "individual think
time" to consider the strategy and then the teacher solicits
explanations from student volunteers.
Provide Tools
The teacher ensures that tools such as 120 Charts,
counters, and base ten blocks are in close proximity in
case students would like to use the tools to explain their
thinking.
Provide Sentence Stems
The teacher provides sentence stems and/or sentence
frames to encourage students to speak in complete
sentences and use academic language to explain their
thinking. Examples include:
I think the answer is __ because __.
I agree with __ because __.
I disagree with __ because __.
I like __'s strategy because __.
Tomorrow I will try __'s strategy because __.

encourages students to start thinking
critically and communicate their
thinking with others.
20

| Fall/Winter 2020

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Texas Mathematics Teacher



Texas Mathematics Teacher Fall/Winter 2020

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http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/txmt/66-02
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/txmt/66-01
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/txmt/65-02
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/txmt/65-01
http://www.brightcopy.net/allen/txmt/64-02
https://www.nxtbook.com/allen/txmt/64-1
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