Number Talks for adding and subtracting

3 Cool Math Number Talks and Fluency for Adding and Subtracting

It’s that time of year when I teach my students adding and subtract. It can be a fun time (there are so many great ideas out there to use)! 

One of my favorite parts of teaching addition and subtraction is Number Talks. There are many great activities out there that get kids warming up their brains and getting ready to solve problems. Number Talks are like a puzzle for students to solve, and they get to talk about how they solved them, which is a bonus! Any time they share how they solved a problem makes them happy!

So in this post, I will share with you three fun ways to use number talks in your math workshop!

Now, before I get into the nitty-gritty of establishing your guided math section, if you are looking for a guide to set up your own Math Workshop, I have a guide for you sent directly to your inbox! Just a teacher helping out another teacher! Click here to make your math workshop more engaging and fun!

What are Number Talks?

When I first heard this term, I had been teaching for many years, and I wasn’t sure what it was or if it would work in my classroom. Then a team in my building took the leap, immersed themselves in Number Talks, and loved it, and I knew that it was something I wanted to try. So I grabbed the Number Talks book by Sherry Parrish and started reading it. (You can get the book here)

Number Talks or Number Sense is a daily, short, structured way for students to talk to each other about solving math problems. These lessons take about 10 minutes, an excellent way for students to build on their number sense using mental math and thinking flexibly. By flexibly, I mean understanding that there are many ways to solve a problem. Students are encouraged to think of several ways to answer a given problem. 

Once they have thought of their answers, they share their thoughts with the rest of the class. Number Sense is also structured to get students talking about how they solved problems. It relies heavily on students talking to each other and using peer teaching frequently in our classrooms!

3 Cool Math Number Talks for Adding and Subtracting

There are many great Number Talks out there that you can use, but these are three great activities I have used, and the kids seem to enjoy! 

Number Talks with I Spy

This is a super easy activity. You simply put six numbers on the board and say to the students, “I spy with my little eye a sum that is 9.” (or whatever number you want).

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Students then look at the numbers and try to figure out combinations that they could use to make 9. In this example, they may say that 4 and 5 make nine. Students might also say that 8 and 1 make nine. 

Then you ask the students how they got to that answer, or you may ask them how they saw it in their head. Then students can explain their solution and how they got it.

You simply write their explanation on the board as a strategy used. 

At the end of the lesson, you can go over all the strategies used and then explain that each person got to the correct answer but differently. They all used different strategies. You may even have students explain another student’s strategy to help them understand there are many ways to solve a problem.

Number Talks with Two Truths and a Lie

This is another fun activity to try with your students. This simply involves putting up 3 number sentences and asking students to tell you which two are true and which one is a lie. 

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For example, they would look at the problems and say that 6+6=11 isn’t true. You should then ask the students to explain how they knew it wasn’t true and write their strategies down.

If you want to take it a step further, you can ask how can we make 6+6=11 true? They can come up with various answers, such as saying they could make the sum 12 or change one of the addends to 5, making it 6 + 5 = 11. Either way works, and it gets students thinking about numbers and how to correct mistakes if they see them.

Number Talks with Combinations of Numbers

The last activity is similar to the I spy game. This time, students are given three numbers, and they have to choose which two make the number shown.

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For example, if they are given 7, 2, and 5 and asked which two make the number 12, students would come up with 7 and 5. Again, you would ask students to explain which strategies they used to figure out the answer. Then write the strategies on the board.

You can take this a step further by asking students what number would need to be on the board to go with 2 to equal 12. Here they are practicing missing addends which is a tricky concept. Then again, ask the students to explain their strategies to solve the problem. 

After all, responses have been recorded, don’t forget to review the strategies and even have students describe a strategy their peers used. 

Number Talks for Adding and Subtracting

There are many great activities out there that get kids warming up their brains and getting ready to solve problems.  I like mixing things up and using activities like I Spy, Two Truths and a Lie, and Number Combinations. These activities get students thinking outside of the box and solving riddles.  

Number Talks are like a puzzle for students to solve, and they get to talk about how they solved them, which is a bonus! Any time they share how they solved a problem makes them happy!

Are there Number Talks that you like to use for addition or subtraction? Sound off below, and let me know!

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Addition and Subtraction Number Talks to 20

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Hi, I'm Meg!

I have ben teaching in the classroom for over 15 years! I love teaching math and finding new and engaging ways to teach my students.

When I am not teaching you can find me at Target, at a baseball game (GO Nats!), binge watching fun shows, or snuggling with my cats!

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