Learning, Math, Number Talks, Teaching and Instruction

Number Talks- A Routine for Reasoning


The word routine is defined as a sequence of actions that are regularly followed so that they become a habit.  In the classroom routines are often thought of as classroom management procedures that support students in making more effect use of classroom time and to transition more efficiently from one activity to another.  Classroom routines such as how to sharpen your pencil, clean up your materials, come in from recess etc. are explicitly taught, and practiced early on in the school year.  As these routines become habits they help the classroom community run more smoothly, save valuable learning time, and create a predicable, safe space for learners and learning.

Routines can also be powerful tools for mathematical thinking and reasoning.  “Like the management routines, these “mathematical thinking routines” also have a predictable set of actions that students learn and then practice repeatedly until they are second nature.” (Kelemanik, Lucennta, and Creighton, 2016, p.18)  Number talks are one such reasoning routine.  As you use Number Talks in your classroom you establish a routine of actions which the students come to expect and become familiar with.  These actions form a habit and in so doing free up cognitive energy so that the brain can focus not on the routine but on the mathematics.

Number Talk Routine.PNG

Think of a routine as a container.  The container does not change, it is a constant, it is solid, it is reliable.  You can count on the container to hold what you need it to hold.  When the container is well established for students their cognitive energy can shift from focusing on the container to focusing on the contents in the container. This is the power of an established and predictable Number Talk routine.

The routine of a Number Talks has 5 main steps that students come to expect.  During a Number Talk they will:

  1. View a problem/ task.
  2. Think and solve it.
  3. Share their answer.
  4. Defend their solution.
  5. Compare and connect their reasoning to the reasoning of others.

The benefits of adding this promising practice to your instructional routines are numerous.  Besides building more confident mathematicians, Number Talks increase students number sense as they require students to become more flexible and strategic thinkers.  Number Talks also, increase students ability to articulate their thinking and refine their mathematical communication skills.  As we work to increase our students computational fluency Number Talks have become one of THE most promising practices we can add to your professional repertoire.

If you would like to learn more about other Routines for Reasoning check out these books:

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