I was introduced to number talks several years ago, but kind of threw it by the wayside and did a "number talk" every now and then. Last year I had heard several success stories from teachers who were using number talks faithfully in their classroom and I decided to give it a try.  What would it hurt?  Maybe if kids talked about numbers like they talked about football and princesses they would really start to like numbers.

Number Talks is based off of the book Number Talks by Sherry Parrish.  The purpose is to help children build mental math and computation strategies.  Parrish states on the first page of the book that the book was "created in a response to the requests of teachers - teachers who want to implement number talks, but are unsure of how to begin and teachers who are seasoned in this art of instruction, but desire additional support in crafting purposeful problems."  She goes on to say that "the primary purpose of the book is to help teachers begin or refine their use of number talks with whole numbers in the strand of number operations." 

The first grade number talks are designed to provide students with opportunities to build fluency with numbers up to ten and develop beginning addition strategies (Parrish, pg. 97).  First grade begins with counting all/on with dot images, moving into rekenreks, double ten frames, and number sentences.  It then moves into doubles/near doubles, making a ten, and then landmark or friendly numbers.  

I started off doing number talks daily starting in January of last year.  I wasn't expecting much out of the talk.  I thought I would do it every now and then, but never make it a daily habit.  Well, my kids loved it and they were asking for it everyday! We started with ten frames, but by that point in the year they were itching for something more so I went ahead and moved into number sentences.  Some of the students really got excited each time I would add a new number sentence.  It was so fun to watch! This year I started Number Talks from day one and started with dot cards.  It is part of our daily routine and the kids expect it everyday.  I can't wait to see where these kids take it!

One of the main components of Number Talks are the hand signals.  I teach my students from day one how to use the hand signals.  This assures me that all students are mentally participating.  It also hold students accountable.  

  • Fist at chest: Students holding their hand in a fist position at their chest shows me that they are ready and thinking.  My students know when they get to the carpet that they sit down and put their fist on their chest.  Procedures procedures procedures!
  • One thumb up: Once students have an answer or a strategy they give me a thumbs up.  This is not a thumbs up in the air or on top of their head, but right at their chest where their fist was.
  • Thumb and pointer finger out: This shows me that the student has come up with two strategies for solving the problem.
  • Hang Ten: Students show me the "hang ten" sign and shake if they agree with the answer given by another student. 
So, to make my life easier and give my little first graders a visual to remember the hand signals, I created hand signal posters.  I do not take credit for coming up with the actual signals.  I was taught the signals in a Number Talks workshop.  I just created the visuals to help the students.  

I have these visuals hanging up all year long.  The students should never be able to say they forget how to use the hand signals!

Now, if you don't have the book by Sherry Parrish - not to fear!  You can still come up with your own talks using dot cards, a rekenrek, or even number sentences.  Don't decide to not do them just because you don't have the book.  You are truly missing out if you don't hold a talk each day. 

If you'd like to use these visuals in your own classroom you can get your own set here in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.