Number Talks Cheat Sheet

Number Talk Quick Start Guide


What does Number Talks look like?

  • Students are near each other so they can communicate with each other (central meeting place)
  • Students are mentally solving problems
  • Students are given thinking time
  • Thumbs up show when they are ready
  • Teacher is recording students’ thinking



  • Having to talk out loud about a problem helps students clarify their own thinking
  • Allow students to listen to other’s strategies and value other’s thinking
  • Gives the teacher the opportunity to hear student’s thinking


Mental Math

  • When you are solving a problem mentally you must rely on what you know and understand about the numbers instead of memorized procedures
  • You must be efficient when computing mentally because you can hold a lot of quantities in your head


Thumbs Up

  • This is just a signal to let you know that you have given your students enough time to think about the problem
  • If will give you a picture of who is able to compute mentally and who is struggling
  • It isn’t as distracting as a waving hand


Teacher as Recorder

  • Allows you to record students’ thinking in the correct notation
  • Provides a visual to look at and refer back to
  • Allows you to keep a record of the problems posed and which students offered specific strategies


Purposeful Problems

  • Start with small numbers so the students can learn to focus on the strategies instead of getting lost in the numbers
  • Use a number string (a string of problems that are related to and scaffold each other)


Starting Number Talks in your Classroom

  • Start with specific problems in mind
  • Be prepared to offer a strategy from a previous student
  • It is ok to put a student’s strategy on the backburner
  • Limit your number talks to about 15 minutes
  • Ask a question, don’t tell!


The teacher asks questions:

  • Who would like to share their thinking?
  • Who did it another way?
  • How many people solved it the same way as Billy?
  • Does anyone have any questions for Billy?
  • Billy, can you tell us where you got that 5?
  • How did you figure that out?
  • What was the first thing your eyes saw, or your brain did?
  • What are Number Talks and Why are they




Strategies by Grade Level

Grade Addition Subtraction

Counting all/counting on

Making tens


Counting back

Adding up


Counting all/counting on

Doubles/near doubles

Making tens
landmark numbers

Breaking up number into their place value

Adding up in chunks


Adding up

Removal in parts


Counting all/counting on

Doubles/near doubles

Making tens
landmark numbers

Breaking up number into their place value

Adding up in chunks


Adding up

Removal in parts

3 Breaking numbers into their place value

Adding up in chunks

adjusting 1 number to create an easier

Problem using a landmark number


Adding up

Negative numbers

Constant difference

Adjusting 1 number to make an easier problem

Number line

Part – whole box model



Repeated addition

Skip counting

Doubling and halving making an array as a model

Partial products

Using landmark numbers



Students need to understand that:

  • Numbers are composed of smaller numbers.
  • Numbers can be taken apart and combined with other numbers to make new numbers.
  • What we know about one number can help us figure out other numbers.
  • What we know about parts of smaller numbers can help us with parts of larger numbers.
  • Numbers are organized into groups of tens and ones (and hundreds, tens and ones and so forth.)
  • What we know about numbers to 10 helps us with numbers to 100 and beyond






Please follow and like us:

Permanent link to this article: