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What is a Number Talk?
A Number Talk is a short, ongoing daily routine that provides students with meaningful ongoing practice with computation. A Number Talk is a powerful tool for helping students develop computational fluency because the expectation is that they will use number relationships and the structures of numbers to add, subtract, multiply and divide.

Number Talks should be structured as short sessions alongside (but not necessarily directly related to) the ongoing math curriculum. It is important to keep Number Talks short, as they are not intended to replace current curriculum or take up the majority of the time spent on mathematics. In fact, teachers need to spend only 5 to 15 minutes on Number Talks. Number Talks are most effective when done every day.

History of Number Talks
What young children know and understand can never be fully determined through paper and pencil tasks. Teachers can get much more complete and useful information if they watch and interact with the children while they are doing mathematical tasks. Number Talks are one such way to interact with the children. How the children respond reveals their level of understanding.

In the early 1990s, Kathy Richardson and Ruth Parker began working with a group of teachers. During various professional development settings they began giving teachers experiences doing mental math as part of their professional development.

Kathy watched teachers becoming more and more proficient and, in fact, was developing her own level of proficiency… but was also contemplating how this would translate to young children who did not already have some idea of numbers and how they work. She thought about how to develop students’ understanding while, at same time, not telling children how to solve the problems. What young children needed was not Mental math experiences, per se, but working with concrete models to build numbers and then to figure out computation problems using the models until they no longer needed them.

What developed was Number Talks.

Math Perspectives: Number Talks Video
Below is a short video clip of a Number Talk in Cathy Young’s 4th grade classroom.



NEW Article by Kathy Richardson!
What is the Distinction Between a Lesson and a Number Talk?

What is the Distinction Between a Lesson and a Number Talk?
Math Perspectives

What is the distinction between a lesson and a Number Talk? This is a question that seems to come up frequently for teachers using Number Talks as a part of their Math Time block. I would like to share my thinking about this. Read More.


Professional Development
Math Perspectives offers the following course for grades K-2 and 3-6 mathematics.

Thinking with Numbers: Number Talks
Grade Level: K-2/3-5
Duration: 3 days
During these three-day courses, teachers learn to help students acquire competence in computation using visual models and number relationships to build number sense and to develop numerically powerful strategies that make sense to students. Students work with numbers using strategies that are simple, yet meaningful and powerful. Teachers see these methods modeled as they observe children solving problems during Number Talks. Course time is also devoted to helping teachers strengthen their own understanding of mathematics.


Number Talks: An Overview
Math Perspectives

This overview of Number Talks provides useful information for teachers implementing Number Talks in their classroom. It starts with the definition of a Number Talk and provides teachers with the format, goals, and Teacher's Role during Number Talks.

Tips for Implementing Number Talks • Primary Grades
by Sue Plummer
2 pgs @ 350 kb

Tips for Implementing Number Talks • Intermediate Grades
by Cathy Young
2 pgs @ 240 kb


Click to download:
Dot Cards
Number Shapes


Thinking with Numbers DVDMath Perspectives
Thinking With Numbers: Number Talks
by Kathy Richardson

Catalog #211252H • Price: $69.00

The Math Perspectives Thinking with Numbers DVD shows children doing arithmetic in a way that makes sense to them, using strategies that are simple yet meaningful and powerful. Thinking with Numbers features classroom teachers and students engaged in mental math sessions that foster children's understanding of number concepts. This unique approach enables teachers to find out what children are thinking and doing when they add, subtract, multiply, and divide.

This DVD demonstrates real students in real classrooms, typical of most students in this country. Yet not one of them says, "I can't do this problem." They all try, and they all find a way to solve the problems they are given. Why? Because they have been taught to do math in a way that makes sense to them.