Math Conversations – Math Prompts for Number Talks or Math Talks

Is there anything better than hearing kids talk about math? And not only talk…but think – REALLY think. Sometimes we get into a rut with teaching math, where we focus only on getting answers. But what if we focused less on getting answers and more on thinking flexibly and making connections? Would math suddenly get more interesting? More relevant?

I believe that a daily math talk routine is one of the most powerful practices you can have in your classroom.

The goal of math conversations is to get you and your students talking about math. When kids get the opportunity to share strategies, consider others’ thinking, and justify their own thinking, they can make connections that build their understanding.

Another important part of math conversations is understanding that mistakes are not bad! Mistakes mean that learning is taking place. In her book, Mathematical Mindsets, and also in this article which I highly recommend reading, Jo Boaler discusses the importance of mistakes and making them a celebrated part of math.

As you get started with your math conversation routine, I wanted to share an activity that I read about in Mathematical Mindsets called “Favorite Mistakes.” This is a great addition to a math talk where you have several students sharing their thinking. Favorite Mistakes is an activity where teachers share their favorite mistakes that students have made. Boaler states these should be “conceptual mistakes, not numerical errors. Teachers can then share the mistakes with the class and launch a class discussion about where the mistake came from and why it is a mistake. This is also a good time to reinforce important messages – that when the student made this mistake it was good, because they were in a state of cognitive struggle and their brain was sparking and growing.” (Mathematical Mindsets, page 17)

Can you imagine how your math class might change if mistakes were celebrated?


If you are ready to use Math Conversations in your classroom, here’s the link to where you can find them.


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