Resources mentioned in this episode:

Making Number Talks Matter by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker

**coupon code mentioned in the episode is no longer active**

Welcome fellow Recovering Traditionalists to Episode 10. Today we are looking at how to make number talks matter.

Before we get started I wanted to thank Stenhouse Publishers for providing a discount for any of you who want to purchase the book I’m talking about today. They are the publisher of the book and they have given you guys a discount, just go over to the show notes at to get the details.

Number Talks have become popular over the last few years but were actually created back in the 1990s by Ruth Parker and Kathy Richardson. Ruth has a long history of implementing number talks and she teamed up with Cathy Humphreys to write the book Making Number Talks Matter in 2015.

This book is full of tips and information about how to ensure Number Talks are a time of quality instruction that builds your students’ understandings of Subtraction, Multiplication, Addition, Division, and Fractions, Decimals & Percents.

Today I’d like to talk about one of the Guiding Principles for Number Talks that they discuss in the book.

On page 27, they write:

“While efficiency is a goal, we recognize that whether or not a strategy is efficient lies in the thinking and understanding of each individual learner. No strategy is efficient for a student who does not yet understand it. Number Talks are not about getting our students to think like we do, or even to get them to understand a ‘best’ way. Rather, they are about encouraging students to think in ways that make sense to them.”

Oh boy was I guilty of this!! When I first started implementing Number Talks I saw the point of them to help kids see different strategies and compare them to see which was THE BEST strategy. I would have kids talk about how many steps each strategy took, as if less steps makes it more efficient.

The line “no strategy is efficient for a student who does not yet understand it” was like a slap in the face…but one I needed.

Ruth & Cathy acknowledge the fact that it’s important to highlight particularly efficient strategies and to ask kids to try another student’s method but we need to do it in a way that doesn’t make kids think that strategy is the one we think is the best. We need to provide gentle nudgings towards flexibility and efficiency through number talks and that’s what the majority of the book is about.

So if you’d like to learn more about how to do that, go check out the book Making Number Talks Matter by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker. I’ll have a link to it on the show notes at

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As you start off the school year, I want you to keep in mind what is really important as we're trying to teach mathematics to our students.