‘Number Talk’ is a teaching strategy that focuses on developing pupils’ fluency, deepening their understanding of numbers, the connections between them and other concepts. It works on supporting pupils to become efficient, accurate, and work flexibly at the same time developing pupil’s mathematical vocabulary and reasoning skills. Number Talk is about pupils talking strategies rather than always recording maths or using one specific strategy. It’s not about as rapid response but about allowing pupils’ time to calculate an answer, explain their strategies, challenging each other, building on what they know and refining methods.
The session is separate from the daily maths session but the question stems and hand signals are used throughout all maths lessons and stem sentences are key. The session is about 5-15 minutes daily and starts with a problem written on the board examples are shown below:
Examples of the types of problem posed
How would you solve 19 x 6 mentally?
How would you solve 110 – 59 mentally?
How would you solve ½ + 0.25 mentally?
Example of reasoning chains
If I know 5 + 5 = 10
Then how would you use this to solve 5 + 6, 10 + 10, and 10 + 9, 15 + 5, 25 + 5…
If I know 12 x 4
Then how would I use this to solve 6 x 4, 24 x 2, 3 x 16, 120 x 4, and 40 x 120
Pupils are given 3- 5 minutes to consider the question and strategies. Time varies dependant of age. Pupils are encouraged to find as many different mental strategies as they can during the time given. Some pupils may use manipulatives to solve the problem. All answers are accepted and respected. Before pupils share their answers and explanations each pupil uses a hand signal to show where they are in the process.
Hand signals for this point in the session
Structure of session
Step 1: Write a calculation on the flip chart paper e.g. 311 + 212 + 407 =
Step 2: Ask the pupils work out the answer mentally (no jottings, manipulatives for lower ability and younger pupils)
Step 3: Ask all the pupils who has got an answer, ask them to use a hand sign to show if they have an answer / how many strategies ( use hand signal shown above)
Q1: What is the answer, record the answer given
Q2: If correct has anyone got any different answers
On flip chart write down all the answers, ask the pupils to show you who agrees with which answer or wishes to challenge - using the following hand signals, supported with the stem sentence (see build, challenge, agree page)