Over the years, teachers and researchers have discovered the amazing benefits of math talks with kids.

It’s no secret, y’all. As a teacher, mom of two, and advocate for early childhood, I absolutely love math talks! 

In fact, I’ve already written other articles with info and tips to help you get started.

Today, however, I’m going to talk specifically about the benefits of doing math talks with young children.

At the end of this post, you will find an opportunity to grab a free set of math talks, and tips to help you start amazing math discussions today.

Math talks, sometimes referred to as number talks, are (what I believe to be) the number one strategy to help kids become independent thinkers and confident in their math skills.

Math talks, sometimes referred to as number talks, are (what I believe to be) the number one strategy to help kids become independent thinkers and confident in their math skills.

What Are Math Talks

Math talks are short discussions with kids involving a purposefully selected math problem.

The conversations kids have during math talks lead to a deeper understanding and appreciation for meaningful mathematical discourse.

In short, students are encouraged to use multiple strategies while solving problems accurately. (Johnson & Partlo, 2014)

The Little Learning Corner Math Talks are powerful resources designed to help students develop mental computation strategies.

math talk reviews

Benefits of Math Talks with Kids

In both elementary classrooms and home learning environments, the utilization of math talks offers numerous substantial advantages:

  1. Facilitates inquiry-based learning in mathematics.
  2. Enhances students’ mental arithmetic capabilities positively.
  3. Fosters the development of number sense and conceptual comprehension.
  4. Cultivates critical thinking skills.
  5. Stimulates children to engage in thoughtful discussions and articulate mathematical concepts.
  6. Cultivates an atmosphere of respect for diverse perspectives and ideas.
  7. Establishes a safe and nonjudgmental setting by embracing the absence of definitive answers.
  8. Nurtures independent thinking among students.
  9. Utilizes open-ended inquiries effectively for instructional differentiation.
  10. Encourages problem-solving skills in students.
  11. Cultivates and reinforces a positive attitude towards mathematics.
  12. Ensures high levels of student engagement.
  13. Embraces emergent learning through open-ended questioning, aligning with students’ interests and concerns.
  14. Prioritizes learning processes over final outcomes, as advocated by McLennan in The Journal of Teaching and Learning.
  15. Enhances teachers’ understanding of students’ cognitive processes and problem-solving approaches in mathematics.

math talk reviews
Get the bundle HERE or on TPT

Get the bundle HERE or on TPT

 

Positive Effects on Mental Math

As teachers and parents, we want our kids to reach the point where they can solve computations quickly, in their head. 

That, in a sense, is what mental math is all about.  However, to get to the point, we need to help kids build a strong conceptual understanding of numbers.

As you begin to build a routine , you will see the kids’ mental math improve.

Day after day, as your kids talk, they share their ways of figuring things out, and listen to others’ who think differently. 

As a result, they begin to learn new methods and perspectives on math – one of which will resonate with them.

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Get the bundle HERE or on TPT

When these talks are led by the students thoughts, rather than being told to memorize computation, the kids are building their confidence.

“Fluency happens in the mind. No matter what the activity, confidence helps students be more successful.” (Olsen, 2015)

Improves Number Sense and Conceptual Understanding

Developing number sense and conceptual understanding  is essential for the kids success in mathematics.

As an early childhood teacher, I often heard parents say their kid is so smart in math because they can count to 100, or solve a few addition problems, before they started kindergarten. 

First, I’m happy they have confidence in their kids learning abilities. 

Second, I’d encourage them to observe and see if the kids truly understand what that counting or adding means. 

More times than not, even though the kids could count to 100, they weren’t able to tell me what number comes before and after 14. 

Or, even though they can solve 2+2=4 for their parents, they weren’t able to tell me what the word “plus” means. 

This, friends, means they do not have a strong number sense or conceptual understanding.

Get the bundle HERE or on TPT

Number sense is the ability to see patterns and relationships between numbers, to work flexibly with operations and procedures, to recognize order and relative quantities, and to utilize estimation and mental computation. (Lowber & Lamberg)

As prek, kindergarten, and first grade students are engaging in number talks, they are gaining an awareness of their own sense of numbers and computation.

Furthermore, they are also learning from others who share their computation process.


Math Talks Encourage Kids to Think, Communicate, and Discuss Math Concepts

Math talks, whether at home, over remote learning, or in the classroom, are designed to encourage kids to think, express their thoughts, and discuss mathematics. 

You will notice an increase of engagement almost immediately when you present my monthly math talks to the kids.

For example, as seen in the October math talk card below, all you have to do is show the card and ask “What can you tell me about these trees?”.

Some common responses from the kids are: “They are big and small.”, “There are three yellow trees”, “There are two orange trees”, “There are three red trees”, “They are different colored leaves”, and “there are eight trees in all”.

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Just by listening to kids’ responses, you will become aware of their mathematical understanding. 

The responses above show an understanding of math vocabulary such as big, small, different, and in all. 

From there, you can easily expand the discussion with questions such as “Which has more/less – the big or small trees?” 

Or, you can ask if anyone wants to share a number equation that would go with the picture. This is a great way to open up discussion.

The important part, for you, is to never tell the kids they are “wrong”. 

Instead, ask them to explain how they came up with that answer. 

Typically, self correction happens through the discussion.

Math talks, sometimes referred to as number talks, are (what I believe to be) the number one strategy to help kids become independent thinkers and confident in their math skills.

Number Talks Support Inquiry-Based Mathematics

Did you first hear about daily number talks when learning about an inquiry-based math class?

Inquiry Based Education (IBE) can be attributed to John Dewey (1859-1952). 

In the world of education, he is known as one of the great American philosophers, psychologist, and education reformer.

According to an article published on University of Texas Arlington, “…inquiry-based learning is when teachers use questions, problems and scenarios to help students learn through individual thought and investigation.

Instead of simply presenting facts, the teacher encourages students to talk about a problem and draw on their intuition to understand it.”

Get the bundle HERE or on TPT

Math Talks Teach Kids to Respect and Validate Others’ Thinking

Learning how to listen to and respect others thinking is a life long skill. We should be teaching kids this skill from an early age.

Number talks, if done right, are the perfect tool integrate social, language, and math skills.

While a child speaks, the others should not interrupt. 

Instead, they are learning to listen to others thinking and computation strategies. 

As the teacher or parent, you are practicing accepting ones thoughts, by not telling the kids they are wrong. 

This, in turn, will teach the kids to respect and validate others thoughts.

free-april-math-talks-for-kids-pin-3 Get your kids talking and building critical thinking math skills with these free April Math Talks! As mentioned in the introduction to the math talks series, these are not just about numbers and counting; they’re about fostering a love for learning, sparking curiosity, and nurturing critical thinking skills from a young age.

Free Math Talk Sample

If you’re wanting to give math talks a try, you can grab a set of free math talks to try with your kids.

One of the most popular free sets are the April Math Talks.

When you download your free math talks, you will get an entire month’s worth of printable cards and digital slides.

👉 FREE APRIL MATH TALKS FOR KIDS

Before you go, here are a few blog posts related to this:

The Best Kindergarten Math Assessment

How to do Number Talks in Kindergarten

January Math Mats for Kids

Math talks, sometimes referred to as number talks, are (what I believe to be) the number one strategy to help kids become independent thinkers and confident in their math skills.

Benefits of Math Talks