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Number Talks

What are Number Talks?  information below if from Number Talks by Sherry Parrish

Number Talks are “classroom conversations around purposefully crafted computation problems that are solved mentally.  The problems in a number talk are designed to elicit specific strategies that focus on number relationships and number theory.  Students are given problems in either a whole– or small-group setting and are expected to mentally solve them accurately, efficiently, and flexibly.”  By sharing and defending their solutions and strategies, students have the opportunity to collectively reason about numbers while building connections to key conceptual ideas in mathematics.  A typical classroom number talk can be conducted in five to fifteen minutes.  Number talks provide a collaborative forum for students to 1.) invent strategies  2.) generalize individual strategies into personal algorithms and  3.) build a conceptual bridge to the standard algorithm.  Most students, and many adults, think of mathematics as rules and procedures to memorize without understanding the numerical relationships that provide the foundation for these rules.  Mathematics is not about rules and procedures to be implemented with speed and accuracy without understanding the mathematical logic.  With almost 2/3 of our nation’s adult population fearful of mathematics, they have simply said “NO” to mathematics and closed the doors to careers that require higher math.  Their foundation based on memorization crumbles when they are called to generalize arithmetic relationships in algebra courses.  Today’s information age requires students and adults to develop a deeper understanding of mathematics.  Our students must have the ability to reason about quantitative information, possess number sense and check for the reasonableness of solutions and answers.  We need students who are able to discern whether numbers make sense and are applicable to specific situations and who are capable of communicating about solutions to problems. 

Number talks are a purposeful vehicle for

1. making sense of mathematics

2. developing efficient, effective, flexible computation strategies

3. communicating mathematically and

4.  reasoning and proving solutions.