Learning Fractions with Number Talks

Last Updated on July 16, 2022 by Editorial Team

What is number talks?

Number Talks, as the name suggests, are short discussions (10ish minutes) exercised as daily routine with the aim at building number sense, mental math and number manipulating skills of young learners. Usual scenario in these discussions involves with teacher writing something on board (say, 13+25 =?) and asking everyone to come up with answer without touching pen or paper.

The students are asked to explain how they come up with answer as well. The focus here is not the answer but way they arrived at it. The focus is to build communication among the students so they put their creative mind into effort to come up with the answers in different ways.

Why Number Talks?

Number Talk is a fun, engaging and easy-to-implement practice. Since the focus is not on the answer rather the way, It makes sure not to be considered as some competitive task but a discussion exercise. Teacher gives ample time so that everyone has the answer. Students weak in arithmetic skills are encouraged to explain their solutions.

In a typical scenario during number talks, whenever someone has the answer, he/she has to pull a thumbs up to their chest and keep adding fingers as they get different ways of achieving it. This makes sure the discussion is fruitful to every student, not just the handful having a good pace at mental math.

Numner Talks tremendously help in building number sense. It gives them the freedom to play with the numbers by breaking them and making the problems easier. Furthermore, Number Talks allow students to hear and share different thinking, helping every student build his/her own repertoire.

Introducing fractions in number talks

Number Talks can be extended to lot of other domains to help students understand them better. One such are the decimels and the fractions. These are also called Fraction Talks.

This, however, requires more visual emphasis. Explanation with diagram/picture are best suited for learning Fractions with Number Talks.

In a typical routine, Teacher starts with a picture of segmented square or rectangle. To represent a fractional relationship, different areas are differently colored. Students are asked to answer the fraction of the area specifically colored. The teacher can facilitate the student discussion, underline powerful ideas, and encourage students to share multiple ways to solve the problem.

Both visual and theoretical approach for fractions are important in the routine. Breaking and adding chunks of fractions are more explanable as well as understandable through this. Let us take an example

Say ‘1/4’ is the fraction of the day. The class has to play around this fraction in today’s fraction talks.

  • Choose any of the given figure for fractional relationship. Try varying a bit to keep it engaging in next sessions.
  • Ask the fractions in terms of shaded region it covers. Cover discussions on every region
  • Write the explanation on side of the board.

Some Questions to Arise in Fraction Numbers Talk

  • How did you come up with that answer?
  • Anyone like to support the answer?
  • I’m a little confused. Could you tell me in a different way?
  • _____, What do you think about this problem?

Tips for conducting successful session of fraction number talks

  • Make short (say, 5-10 minute) sessions of fractions number talks rather than long ones. Make sure to keep doing it in routine daily.
  • Prepare the session in advance. It would be helpful to continue some remainder points from previous day.
  • Make sure everybody take part in the discussion. Students must follow the common practice – to hold thumbs upto the chest when have the answer. This way everybody get a fair chance to present their answer.
  • Emphasize on the way the student reached the answer instead of the answer itself. Give equal discussion weightage to both the right and the wrong answer.
  • Don’t be outright critical of the wrong answer. Ask how they got the answer.

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