Elementary Math, Uncategorized

Let’s Give Them Something To Talk About

If I’m being honest, when it comes to Math Talks, there’s no one right way to do it. I have been doing Math Talks with my classes for almost 10 years now. There’s always a direction I’m trying to go with the discussion, but many times the direction changes depending on what the students are saying and asking. Questioning by the teacher is one of the most genuine and personal attributes in teaching. I have focused many of my teaching goals over the years on purposeful questions. Good questioning is not something that happens overnight. Good questioning happens with practice. It comes with observing others teaching. It develops with reflection. 

Kristin used to teach across the hall from me. I would pop over to grab something from her room or to ask her a question and become mesmerized by her questioning. I’m not saying this to build her up, but she is by far one of THE BEST in the business at questioning. Now that she’s out of the classroom and out on the road working with schools and teachers,  I get to witness this less than I used to. I absolutely love when she pops into my room and starts questioning my kiddos. I watch with a smile on my face and learn so much about what my students know and don’t know by simply watching and listening. 

My point is not to fluff Kristin’s feathers here, but to encourage you to open your classroom and allow others to watch and listen to you and your kids. My goal for you this school year is to stop in someone else’s room and just listen. Listen to one another’s questioning. Listen to the students’ math talk.  If you don’t feel comfortable with starting off letting someone just pop in, maybe record with your cellphone the 5-10 min math talk and then watch it. Let me tell you, when I watch short videos I’ve recorded of my teaching or student responses makes me think so much about what I could do better to help deeper the student understanding.

Think about the grade level you teach. What sorts of questions could you ask your kiddos regarding this image. I would ask any and all grades: What do you notice? What do you wonder?



  • How many pigs do you see?
  • How many cows do you see?
  • How many squirrels do you see?
  • How many rabbits do you see?
  • How many sheep do you see?
  • How many chickens do you see?
  • How many trees do you see?

First grade:

  • Ask any of the questions from the Kindergarten group.
  • Are there any animals that have the same amount?
  • How many more _______ than ______ are there?
  • How many less _______ than _______ are there?
  • How many spots are there on the cows?

Second Grade:

  • Ask any of the questions from Kindergarten and 1st grade.
  • Let’s look at the groups of pigs. How can we write an equation representing the pigs?
  • What about the cows?
  • Can we see the groups of chickens? What are some ways we can write this equation. 

Third, Fourth, and Fifth Grade:

  • Ask any of the questions from Kindergarten, 1st grade, and 2nd grade.
  • The animals are grouped in various ways.   How can we use our 3rd grade knowledge to write algebraic equations to represent them?
  • How many more animals are looking to the left than to the right?
  • What fraction of the animals are looking left? Right?
  • How many legs are in the picture?
    • How can we write an algebraic equation?

If you need more pictures to use in your classroom, Kristin has gotten permission from Char Forsten to post some of her pictures here on our site. You can also purchase her book, Math Talk, online. More guides on Math or Number Talks are: Number Talks: Whole Number Computation or Number Talks: Fractions, Decimals, and Percentages.

 I don’t think you NEED to purchase a book.  It’s my personal opinion that if you’re purposeful in your questioning you will get a feeling where your class is going. You will get a sense of what you need to ask next. I use my “Calendar Math” time and sometimes pictures I have taken myself to have a purposeful math talk with my class. 

Make sure to go to our FREE PAGES to download the images from Char Forsten.  

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