Math = Love: Number Talks and Numeracy Skills

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Number Talks and Numeracy Skills

This has been an exciting week because I started number talks for the first time.

This summer, I read Making Number Talks Matter (affiliate link) after hearing it recommended over and over and over by the #MTBoS.

And, the book definitely lived up to all of the hype!  I read the entire book in two days.  It was just that good!  Before I decided to jump in and buy the book, I watched several awesome youtube videos about number talks.  I'd recommend this video by Sherry Parrish and this video by Jo Boaler.  I also highly recommend this blog post by Sara VanDerWerf.    

I'd heard a lot about number talks, but I always dismissed them as something I didn't have time for.  When I found out this summer that I would be teaching a math concepts class (a class for 9th graders not yet ready for Algebra 1), I was excited because I knew I would finally have time to try out number talks. 

As I started to read the Making Number Talks Matter (affiliate link) book, I began to realize that I need to do these in all of my classes.  One thing I especially love about this book is it's written for teachers of grades 4-10.  So, it shows how these seemingly elementary math concepts apply directly to the high school math classroom.  Plus, my students need serious work with these "seemingly elementary math concepts."  I've decided to make mental math my big focus of 2016-2017.  And, number talks are how I'm going to provide my students with practice.  

The authors of Making Number Talks Matter suggest starting with dot talks when you first introduce number talks because it's a problem that all students can participate in.  I wasn't sure how my students would take to the dot talks, but they have been LOVING them!  It's been eye-opening for me to see the different ways my students see things.  And, kids are begging to share with the class how they saw the problem.  I'm trying to keep them short (5-7 minutes), but I know it is time well spent!  It's also a good sign when they're sad that they only get to do one each day!  

I have pictures of all our dot talks so far, but they're on my school computer.  So, you'll just have to take my word that my students are doing an awesome job!  ;)  We'll be doing two more dot talks this week.  On Fridays, we'll be doing a 5-minute Numeracy Ninja test.  Numeracy Ninjas is an awesome free UK numeracy building resource.  I know that timed tests are controversial, but I want my students to be able to see that their mental math skills are building as the year progresses.  I want them to see number talks as useful and productive conversations.  

Here are our Numeracy Ninja books for the first 10 weeks of the year:

I printed them in booklet form on letter sized paper, folded them in half, and stapled them on the folded edge.  

Next week, I think we'll jump into subtraction problems first.  I'll be sure to report back with how it's going!  I'm so excited that I'm actually doing something about my students' numeracy skills this year instead of just complaining about their lack of numeracy skills.  


  1. I have a similar class that I would love to do this in. I look forward to reading more about how this goes for you. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Number talks are going well. Hoping to post some pictures of my students' evolving thinking!

  2. I think it's great that your school offers Math Concepts! Many schools/states require all 9th grade students to take algebra, but some students aren't ready yet, and it's not fair to place them in a class where they don't yet have the skills they need to succeed. Let's help them get to where they need to be so that they can be successful in algebra.

  3. Sarah, how's it going so far with Numeracy Ninja? I'm considering following your lead with this...