Let’s Have a Talk. A Number Talk.

Here is the problem of the day.

I’m Eight.

What was your answer?

Problem of the day is a great way to jumpstart the day. There are multiple ways you can use this before a lesson or class begins. Problems can be about prior content, currently learning content, and content you haven’t yet covered.

They are also a great tool when entering into a number talk.

What is a Number Talk?

Number talks are brief discussions that focus on a student’s mental math computation of a single problem. When students are explaining how they came to their answers, teachers visually draw out their thought process for other students to understand.

Students who participate in number talks on a regular basis develop stronger number senses. They also find it easier to make important mathematical connections.

Math talks have 3 essential aspects.

  1. Structure
  2. Computation Strategies
  3. Talk moves and discussion starters


You do not need to be a rocket scientist in order to successfully implement math talks into the classroom. Jo Boaler, an education author and professor of Mathematics Education has a wonder video where she explores successful ways of implementing number talks into the classroom.

From Stanford Online’s “How To Learn Math for Teachers and Parents”: Number Talks

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Don’t be afraid of talking about numbers. Actually, most of math class should be talking about numbers and how to compute them. Use problem of the days and growing ideas!


Student to Student Talking Gives the Best Math Explanations

There is a significant impact in a student’s achievement when they get to work on their assignment in a group. When students are paired together their knowledge and ideas will expand.

Benefits of Students Talking to Students 

  • Collaboratively learning
  • Sharing ideas
  • Inquiries
  • Clarify differences
  • Problem-solving
  • Constructing new understandings
  • Communicating precisely
  • Sparks conversation
  • Remembering learned knowledge

When students are working together, this is the time in a day when we as teachers can observe our students. The value of getting to listen and observe students is it allows us to know if our students are meeting the objectives and are actively engaged. The best ideas come from collaboration and sometimes their ideas are some we’ve never looked into.

It also serves as a way to gauge participation. Students are more likely to engage with a small group than volunteer in whole group because of anxiety limiting their ability. From there we can determine if  they’re really understanding or if more instruction is needed.

The 3 Cs

Before breaking students into pairs or groups, there needs to be scaffolding on teamwork. A great way to help students remember this is with The 3 Cs.

  1. Communication
  2. Cooperation
  3. Courage

When students use these three things, their conversations are going to be meaningful. Without them there is no point in even separating students.

Carve time in the day to allow students to communicate to one another. The responses will contain more depth and more students will participate in the larger group.



Play with Manipulatives!

Manipulatives are essential in an early childhood classroom. Manipulatives help a student understand concepts by physically seeing and doing the problem. They are great for all grade levels, but especially the younger learners when they are learning about values and patterns.

There are several interactive activities that can be done with manipulatives that are sure to keep your students actively engaged. Most of the time they won’t even be realize they are learning.

Here is a list of inexpensive or school provided manipulatives that will strengthen your lesson.

  • Snap Cubes
  • Two-color Counters
  • Plastic Bears
  • Play-doh
  • Foam Shapes
  • Geoboards
  • Base Ten Blocks
  • Color Tiles
  • Fraction Circles
  • Dice
  • Fake Money
  • Write-On/Wipe-Off Clock
  • Rekenrek


What concepts can you teach with them?

  • Time
  • Money
  • Size
  • Patterns
  • Color
  • Addition
  • Subtraction
  • And more!

Each child receives a tool kit to store their math manipulatives. They keep their tool kit in their cubbies or desk. My students could sit for hours and play with their manipulatives and yours will too!

Incorporate them into your next math lesson. You are sure to see positive growths in their learning and understanding.

Interactive Math Notebooks Expand the Brain

Interactive math notebooks are one of the greatest tools we can give to a child.

Notebooks are a child’s personal journal that helps them with remembering concepts that were previously. They are set up in a way in which the child understands because they have full creative control on how they want to design and organize it.

There are no right or wrong way to set up a journal. They can include:

  • Writings
  • Drawings
  • Pictures
  • Concept Maps
  • Diagrams
  • And more!

They also aren’t limited to any age. Students in preschool can begin using interactive notebooks. There may be little to no writing but drawing pictures and gluing documents in are just as effective.

Interactive notebooks also serve many purposes and benefits.

  • A portfolio
  • Students get their thought process down on paper
  • Encourage independent thinkers and writers
  • Track growth
  • Track understanding
  • Teacher and student interaction strengthen

Notebooks can be physical or digital. The only thing that matters is they should be readily available for whenever a child needs it Students in my class have both, but we spend more time on the digital. Our digital notebook is through an app called Seesaw. 

Seesaw is a digital portfolio for students and communication source between teachers and parents. Parents can see their child’s work as soon as their child’s teacher approves it. They can instantly provide feedback and see what their child is doing.

Interactive math notebooks should be a requirement in every math course. The best way to understand is when we organize and display it in the way that makes sense to us. I’ve seen my students become better learners because they have a resource to go to when they get stuck instead of automatically coming to me. Students are constantly expanding on their ideas and growing their mindset.

We Need Growth Mindsets

When you are confronted with a challenge what do you usually do?

I think I can speak for majority of us when I say we give up when frustration its. Unfortunately we have developed a fixed-mindset because of what we’ve been told as children.

I always figured that I wasn’t good at math because my dad wasn’t either. My parents and teachers never really pushed me to think in my own way and I had a hard time understanding the one set method the curriculum wanted us to know.

This is not the mindset we should be instilling in our students. Instead, we should be instilling a growth mindset.

I am already recognizing students in my class who have developed a fixed mindset at five-years-old.  My students struggle with doing things on their own because for the last five years they’ve had help from other adults. Out of a class of nineteen, I can easily name seven students after twelve days of being in the classroom. I have also noticed that my students in the lower achievement levels are the ones living with this mindset.

What Can We Do?

  1. Set Healthy Habits

Encourage students to put in the time and effort. Remind them that when frustration kicks in to step back for a minute, but whatever they do, do not stop.

This article, “Healthy Habits for a Growth Mindset in Math” is an additional resource for how to effectively implement healthy habits for growth mindsets.

  1. Have them set a goal 

These goals should be short-term goals to a bigger goal. A student will feel more accomplished when they see a smaller task being complete. It encourages them to keep working towards their end goal.

  1. Give them time

Our wait time is too short. We only give students seconds to think of a response. To create a through, in-depth response we need to allow more wait time. Sometimes this can even take minutes!

Be patient.

The longer you wait, the better the answer will be.

  1. Guide their thinking

Students will get frustrated. That is part of the learning process.

Teachers should never give students answers because then they aren’t really learning. What we should do is guide them towards resources that will help them and ask them questions. This gives them a lead into a direction.


Math can be a complicated subject. If you don’t understand the basics of a concept then it’s only going to get harder as it expands. We are living in a world where we are teaching children to develop fixed-mindset before they even enter grade school. No matter what anyone says, no one is terrible at math. It’s a patient process that only works when we believe in ourselves and persevere, but we can all solve the equations as long as we allow our minds to grow.

Math Apps That Are Needed In Your Classroom

Let’s face it teachers, we are counting down the days until this year is over. This year has challenged us to be more flexible and adaptable than ever, but the biggest challenge we have faced is technology.

With learning moving online, we are all adjusting our teaching strategies to reach our students while living in this new world. Math is one of the most challenging subjects to teach digitally as it is best taught through manipulatives and conversations. It also doesn’t help many math centers are hidden behind closed doors due to new cleaning regulations. Things will not be changing anytime soon, however, in the meantime here are three math apps/websites  to use as centers that are sure to challenge and deepener your student’s understanding of different concepts.


  1. Splash Learn

This is kindergartens’ favorite app (and it’s free!). The curriculum is broken down into grade level, skill, and common core standards. The skills adjust as students move onward, making it custom for each child’s varying needs. The questions are interactive and the children think they’re playing a game.

Did I mention it reads every dialogue box? This is a must have for any student who may not be reading on their own yet. Another key feature is it allows teachers to have the track each students’ progress. It is neatly organized and easily accessible for teachers when having student or parent conferences. This makes a great center option for students and frees up part of a teacher’s day to assistant students based on their strategy level.

  1. Nrich

This website is another teacher must have. This site has strategies for both teachers and students. For students, one of the key feature is the dozens of games provided. The games are broken down into concept and age range. There are even multiplayer games.


A few of the games teach students methods that they may have never heard of before or challenge them to think multiple ways. There are no one right answer to these games. Any method is correct as long as a child can prove it.

  1. Math Learning Center

The final website every math teacher should be informed about is Math Learning Center. There are a series of resources for you to use within the classroom from lesson plans to curriculum guides. For students there are free interactive games.

The games provided are:

  • Geoboard
  • Math Clock
  • Number Frames
  • Number Line
  • Number Pieces
  • Number Rack
  • Whiteboard
  • Fractions
  • Math Vocabulary Cards
  • Money Pieces
  • Pattern Shapes.

Each app strengthens a child’s understanding of a concept with a digital version of physical resources that are beneficial when learning. These apps can be used anywhere and they are Covid friendly!

Covid has flipped our year upside down. With new regulations and policies, there are very few resources left to use. One thing we still have left is our world of technology and using these websites are sure to have your students where you need them to be.


Math Walks

The classroom gets boring. We spend nearly five hours a day in there for five days straight. We begin to lose focus and that is when distractions begin. We may not always have the capability of going on field trips or traveling to other classrooms, but one place a lot of us have access to is the outdoors!

I have learned that the outdoors is my students favorite place to learn. The fresh air cleans their cluttered brains and the unusual setting makings them ready to learn. My students also learn best when actively moving. So why not combine the two together and create a math walk? 

Math walks are a series of math problems that written and drawn out with chalk on a blacktop or sidewalk.

There are two steps my students do when doing a math walk.

  1. Create their own
  2. Do the ones their classmates created  

Math walks come in a variety of formats and contain multiple different math concepts. They can even be use with any grade level, although if it being down with kindergarteners there should be more drawings and less words.

Here are more examples of math walks you can create for your students.

They are fun, engaging, and a different approach from the standard paper and pencil. Students are guaranteed to deepen their understanding and be actively engaged with the materials.

Guide The Conversation

A lot of great math questions begin with “how”.

“How would you explain…”

“How did you come up with that conclusion?”

These are conversation starters.

Our jobs as teachers is to guide a student’s understanding. There is no one right method when doing math. Math can be solved with several methods and the same answer will always appear. We shouldn’t force students to learn in one particular way. Instead, we should be encouraging them to dig deeper and find new methods.

Teachers are facilitators. We should also be encouraging students to explain their explanations and taking polls from the class to see who agrees and who doesn’t. Ask students to share their method and convince the rest of us that their method works.

Math Solutions

This website is a math resource made for teachers and administration that I reference constantly when practicing my guiding as a teacher.. The objective of the site is to increase teachers understanding of the math they teach, deeper insight into how children best learn math, effective methods for teaching math, and increasing insight into individual learners. There are a mixture of blogs, podcasts, webinars, and a bookstore with workshops and other math related texts.


Math is a versatile subject because there is no one right answer. You just have to be able to provide evidence. A lot of us view math with a fix-mindset because we are taught one way of solving a problem and if it doesn’t click automatically we become frustrated and give up. I never even knew there were different ways to understand math concepts until I entered college.

In school I was always taught one way and struggled with the math because of that. I am sure you have to. Don’t be the teacher who forces one right method on the entire class. The score outcome will not be what you want. Instead, allow students to find methods that work for them and take a look into their thought process.

Give Them A Choice

Students love having independence and I love fostering that. There are very few times in a day when a teacher can let a child choose what they want to do because of certain standards and curriculum we need to follow. Math is one area where I struggled to incorporate choice into until I came across choice boards.

What Are Choice Boards?

            A choice board is a graphic organizer that allows students to choose different ways to learn about a concept. Many boards have 15 different activities that cover three days. Each day, students choose a new activity. It can be done with any grade level.

There are tons of free choice boards available for teachers created by teachers. My favorite comes from Laura Rogers, TPS Elementary Instructional Math Coach.

             Here is an example of a kindergarten board made by Laura Rogers and the linkto her other boards. She has one for kindergarten through fifth grade.


How Do I Use Choice Boards?

        Choice boards are student led and are designed for each child’s individual learning needs. Everyday students choose one choice from the board to do. They do this every week. There are a variety of games that teach the concepts we need students to understand. The games are inexpensive and use manipulatives that students already own.

Why Use Choice Boards?

  • Foster’s independence
  • Based on student’s interest
  • More likely to be engaged
  • Content is being taught and understood
  • Variety of activities
  • Differentiated for all students to meet their individual needs
  • Students set the pace

Kinder Math Choice Board 2020 (1)Students learn better when they decide what they want to learn about. Choice boards are a  great way to give students options in their learning and allow teachers to still get through the materials they need to.

Use Children’s Literature in Math!

Literature is needed everywhere. It can be used in any content area and nearly every concept or lesson can be found in some type of text. It expands a student’s vocabulary, contains meaningful context to curriculum, encourages deep thought and reasoning, and encourages interaction to list a few benefits.

A majority of learning for young children stems from children’s picture books. It allows them to see the things they cannot yet read. It allows them to experience new events or build bridges to their life and the outside world. Throughout my years as a student, student teacher, and Pre-K assistant, I have seen literature being used with every subject except math.

I never would’ve thought to bring children’s books into math until I stumbled across this book.

I stumbled across this book when looking for lessons ideas on teaching shapes to my preschoolers. The Greedy Triangleby Marilyn Burns is about a greedy triangle who visits a shapeshifter. The shapeshifters continues adding angles to the triangle, transforming him into different polygons. It was a great introduction into how shapes can transform into other ones.

Watch this two minute video as Ms. Surita teaches her students about math concepts with a Pete the Cat book.

    A large reason as to why teachers leave literature out of math is because they don’t know what books to use. Luckily, The Best Children’s Book found them for you.

They break their books down into academic area, reading level, topics, and a store with the resources. There are tons of math concepts listed from counting to geometry. You are sure to find a book for any content you need. The greatest part is each book has sentence summary of what it’s about and the specific concept it teaches. Plus there is a grade level range! This makes skimming easier.

Add children’s literature into your next math lesson! The benefits are endless and your students will be begging you for more math time.