Number Talks Examples and Ideas

Do your students struggle with explaining how they solved a problem?  Do they give up on a problem soon after starting or before they even begin? Number Talks are the answer!  A Number Talk is a short, purposeful mini lesson that enhances students’ ability to comfortably and flexibly problem solve, reason, and respectfully communicate their thinking using appropriate math vocabulary and academic sentence structure.  Read below to learn more about Number Talks, Math Talks, and Accountable Talk Stems.

A Number Talk is a short, purposeful mini lesson that enhances students’ ability to comfortably and flexibly problem solve, reason, and respectfully communicate their thinking using appropriate math vocabulary and academic sentence structure.  These discussions lead to students understanding that there is more than one way to solve a problem.  Students benefit from having this be a part of their daily routine.  Each Math Talk should last about 10 minutes.  There are four main steps: 1) A problem is presented; 2) Students engage in a productive struggle; 3) Students share with a partner; 4) Students and the teacher engage in a whole group discussion.

Math Talk is a component of a Number Talk. It is a way to structure how students communicate during math discussions.  It encourages the use of academic sentence structure and math vocabulary, as well as building ideas off of one another and challenging ideas in a respectful manner.

Number Talks are important because of these 5 reasons:
  1. Students develop a strong number sense.
  2. Students construct an understanding that there are many different ways to solve a problem
  3. Students are given the opportunity to talk about math concepts with support.
  4. Students build confidence in their math ability.
  5. Students learn from each other.
Here are the four steps of a number talk:
  1. A Problem is Presented (1 minute): The teacher displays a problem and reads it aloud to the students. The teacher clarifies as needed.  The students have access to manipulatives and tools to help them make meaning of the problem and solve.
  2. Students Engage in a Productive Struggle (3-5 minutes): Students work independently to solve the problem as the teacher circulates, asks guiding question, and offers encouragement to persevere.  Students can use mental computation, journals, or whiteboards as a tool to record their thinking.
  3. Students Share with a Partner (1 minute): Students use the accountable talk stems to guide their discussion.  These accountable talk stems need to be in a spot where students can access them. Again, the teacher circulates and provides support as needed.
  4. Students and the Teacher Engage in a Whole Group Discussion (3-5 minutes): The teacher asks students who would like to share their or their partner’s thinking.  The students are reminded to utilize the posted accountable talk stems.  This experience should feel more like a class discussion, than a question and answer between the teacher and students.  When students share their thinking and give an answer, the teacher highlights the strategies rather than the answer.

An Accountable Talk Stem is a discussion prompt that structures students thinking so they can communicate mathematical ideas in an academic way.  It supports students in being able to articulate ideas, build off of someone else’s ideas, and respectfully challenge someone else’s thinking.

It is very important to post Accountable Talk Stems so they are accessible to students during Math Talks. Here are some ideas of where you can put them:
  • Make them into bookmarks that students can store in their math folder and take out during Math Talks.
  • Make them into bookmarks and store them in the area where your class meets for Math Talks so students can access them.
  • Type them up and print a copy for each student so they can store them in their math folder.
  • Type them up and project them on the board during Math Talks.
    Write them on chart paper and post them on a wall where all students can see them from where they sit during Math Talks.

Do you have any more ideas on how to make Accountable Talk Stems accessible for your students?  If so, please share in the comments below!


My first step was ___.
The strategy I used was ___.
In my head I saw ___.
I decided to try ___.
I needed to ___.
I was not sure what to do, but I noticed ___.
I noticed ___.
I realized ___.
I discovered ___.
I compared ___ to ___.
My partner and I discussed ___.
I can visualize this problem by ___.
The information needed to solve this problem is ___.
This reminds me of ___.
The strategy I chose was ___ because ___.
I solved this problem by ___.
I would like to add on to what ___ said about ___.
I solved the problem by ___.
I proved my thinking by ___.
I think ____ because ____.
If ____ then ___.
This reminds me of ___ because ___.
I know this because ___.
I can prove my thinking by ___.
My model makes sense because ___.
I know this tool will work because ___.
My solution is accurate because ___.
I can use ___ to solve this problem.
I know my answer is reasonable because ___.
The best way to solve the problem would be ___.

I agree with ___, but I also think ___.
I agree with ___ because ___.
I respectfully disagree because ___.
It makes sense to me because ___.
I saw it a different way because ___.
My strategy is similar because ___.
Another point of view is ___.
Another way to look at ___ is ___.
Another example is ___.
Another strategy you can use is ___.
A more efficient way to do this is ___.
I am confused about ___ because ___.
My strategy is different because ___.
What puzzles me is ___ because ___.
When I checked my work, I noticed ___.
I used to think ___ but now I know ___.
I learned from ___ that ___.
I have a question about ___.

Why did you ___?
How did you ___?
What if ___?
I can use this in real life when ___.
Could you have ___?

By the way, if you are not already subscribed to The Clutter-Free Classroom newsletter I encourage you sign up. Subscribers receive weekly tips for organizing and managing a classroom as well as exclusive free printables. You can sign up here.