Number Talks

Mental Math Strategies for K-8

Number Talks, Grades K-5: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies

This book has been an invaluable resources for learning the 'how' and 'why' of Number Talks.

Our First Step

As we read the book, we began to realize how powerful number talks could be from a mental math standpoint, as well as creating a community of learners.


Introducing number talks with our students began with using a video that would support a growth mindset. We used various videos, depending on the grade level we were addressing:

Sesame Street, The power of yet (you tube) (primary)


Challenges grow your Brain (you tube) (primary - junior)



Jo Boaler (Youcubed.org) WIM Day 1 (junior-intermediate) - join youcubed.org for FREE to gain access to this and other fabulous resources

Sesame Street: Janelle Monae - Power of Yet
Brain Jump with Ned the Neuron: Challenges Grow Your Brain

Our Goal: To facilitate a number talk at least 3 times each week

Starting with the belief that number talks can build our students' fluency, flexibility and efficiency when working with numbers, we new that number talks needed to be something we would use as often as possible throughout the school year.


K- Grade 2 - focus is on THREE thinking tools - dot cards, rekenreks and 5/10 frames

DOT CARDS - small groups

  • began with Year 2 (SK) students in November
  • introduced protocol of 'Thumbs Up' and 'Me, too"
  • began with a small number of dots, e.g. 2 and progressed slowly

REKENREKS - small groups

  • progressed through resource as suggested

5 & 10 FRAMES - small groups and whole class

  • progressed through resource as suggested

Grades 3-8

First two weeks - use DOT CARDS - whole class

  • introduce protocol of 'Thumbs Up' and 'Me, too"

  • most, if not all, students could feel successful
  • encourages multiple perspectives
  • encourages multiple answers
  • encourages listening to each other
  • sets up a community of learners


Week 3 - begin to use addition with the strategy outlined for Gr 3 (Making 10's)

  • progress through the strategies based on student understanding
  • created small groups for further practice with various strategies (guided math!)

Feedback from Teachers and Students:

"I love how they build the confidence of students so they feel their is no wrong answer." ~T.Dockeray, Hilldale



When "... I say what I saw like 3 dots like this and then she will say so you saw it with the 3 dots like this, and mom she gets it right every time, she knows what we are saying and everyone listens to our answers" - Lily, Gr. 1


I love that I got to hear this from her because its the flip side of it, I'm hearing how kids view the lesson.