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What is a "Math Talk" - and Why Should I Use Them in My Math Lessons?

Updated: May 8, 2023


Students participating in a math discussion with their classmates.

Math talks, also known as number talks, are a powerful tool for transforming your classroom during the math block. They can be used successfully in any grade level. By implementing math talks into your daily routine, you can help your students develop a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts, build their confidence in problem-solving, and foster a positive math mindset.


So, what IS a Math Talk?


Math talks are short, focused discussions that allow students to explore and share their thinking about a specific mathematical concept or problem. During a math talk, students are encouraged to explain their reasoning, ask questions, and listen to their peers’ perspectives.


How do I get started?


Here are some tips for implementing math talks in your classroom:

  1. Start with a short problem or question: Choose a problem or question that is accessible to all students and can be solved using a variety of strategies.

  2. Model your thinking: Before asking students to share their thinking, model your own thought process for solving the problem or answering the question.

  3. Encourage participation: Create a safe and supportive environment where all students feel comfortable sharing their thinking, even if they are unsure or make mistakes.

  4. Use open-ended questions: Ask open-ended questions that encourage students to think critically and deeply about the problem.

  5. Allow for multiple strategies: Encourage students to use a variety of strategies to solve the problem, and be open to different approaches.

  6. Provide wait time: Allow for a few seconds of wait time after asking a question to give students time to think and process.

  7. Summarize and connect: After the math talk, summarize the key ideas and connect them to other concepts or problems.


Show me some examples!


Here's an example from our Grade 2 Math Talk resource:

Math discussion prompt for elementary school students.

This prompt is open-ended, which presents an opportunity for rich discussion and allows students to present a variety of answers. For example, some students may say, "This graph shows people's favourite sport." Another student may suggest, "This graph shows the sports people want to play after school." Someone else may say, "This graph shows the number of each ball stored in the gym supply room."


Students can explain their thinking based on what is given about the data (i.e. What sports balls are shown and what the bar graph shows for each category).


Want to see what a math talk may look like a couple of grades later? Here's an example from our Grade 4 Math Talk resource:


Geometry and spatial sense discussion prompt math talk.

This prompt allows for multiple strategies. Students need to determine the largest possible square that can be cut out from the rectangle. It will have a side length equal to the length of the shorter side of the rectangle, which in this case is 8 units (8 x 8 = 64 square units). They will then also have to determine the area of the entire rectangle and subtract the largest square from the rectangle to determine the area of the remaining figure.


This area activity math talk is multi-step and encourages students to think critically and deeply about the problem.



So why not try a math talk today? Your students will thank you!


Implementing math talks into your daily routine can help transform your classroom during the math block. By creating a safe and supportive environment for student discourse, you can help your students develop a deeper understanding of mathematical concepts, build their confidence in problem-solving, and foster a positive math mindset.


We have ready-to-go, no-prep-required Math Talk resources for Grades 1-8. These resources are structured by math strands: Number, Algebra, Data, Spatial Sense, and Financial Literacy. Each strand includes 20 slides and a slide overview that makes it easy to jump to the slide you want. 107 Slides are included in each resource in total. All slides are editable, so you can make additional slides of the same activity and switch up the numbers as needed, but the slides are ready to go as is.

​Grade 1

Grade 1 Math Discussion Prompts for Students

Grade 2

Grade 2 Math Discussion Prompts for Students

​Grade 3

Grade 3 Math Discussion Prompts for Students

Grade 4

Grade 4 Math Discussion Prompts for Students

Grade 5

Grade 5 Math Discussion Prompts for Students

Grade 6

Grade 6 Math Discussion Prompts for Students

Grade 7

Grade 7 Math Discussion Prompts for Students

Grade 8

Grade 8 Math Discussion Prompts for Students


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