5 Tips for Teaching Number Sense & Number Talks that Impact Learning & Engagement

Around the back on the railroad track, you made a 2 just like that! Solid foundations in number sense are prerequisites for any math learning! We sometimes think they have it when they come to us because they can count a little, but when we get to know them a little better we learn that they don’t understand that a 2 = ğŸŽğŸŽ (Am I right??!!)


We can’t assume they have it, so skipping over deliberate instruction and practice of number sense is not an option! I start at the very beginning of the year with math talks at calendar, and math workshops, using my Number Sense Anchor Charts to support instruction & scaffold at labs. They offer multiple representations and pneumonic rhymes for writing the numerals.


Here are some tips for teaching number sense to your littles!

1. Start at the beginning. Even if kids come to school and can count, it doesn't mean that they have
a solid foundation in number sense. Sometimes they can fool ya, but it doesn't take long to see the gaps. When I say start at the beginning I mean assume nothing. Assume they don't know that a
a 2 = ğŸŽğŸŽ ... even if they do, it won't hurt them to hear how you talk about numbers and make sense of the numerals and quantities. Starting out on the same page is SO important. Using the same language and them hearing you articulate math talk is key - from the first day of school.

2. Use TPR ... all day long! TPR (total physical response) makes ALL the difference in solidifying number sense. They REALLY need to show those numbers on fingers. I even show them how I use my thumb to hold down fingers I don't need when I'm showing how many.  For some of them it's a new skill just to learn how to manipulate their fingers!

3. Talk numbers all day long, not just during math instruction. Make a point to mention numbers during every content area in some way. "Here I  have 3 books that we are going to read today! Let's count them! 1, 2, 3! Show me three fingers!" .... etc. Inserting it naturally in LOTS of conversations will make a huge difference!

4. Build in a Number Talk time into your calendar time EVERYDAY. Starting on the very first day of school and everyday there after, we talk about a number, until we make it all the way to 10. Then we begin to talk about operations beginning with addition. I use my number sense anchor charts and we talk about each thing on the chart. We count each representation, we say the pneumonic rhyme to learn how to write the numeral, we draw it big in the air small in the air, and on our hand. They turn to their partner and tell a sentence about the number.... so they have to use that number in their sentence. (At my house we have 2 dogs.) Then their partner has to give them an "I heard you say sentence. (At your house you have two dogs) As they grow and begin to learn more numbers, I add
little questions or challenges. I encourage TPR between the partners when they are talking numbers as an added way to solidify number sense.

I do not post my number anchor charts on our calendar math talk board until we have learned them. Our "number of the day" is something we do together, so they become a partners in the reason the numbers are posted on the board (very impactful!) vs. having them already there and they just become another piece of text around the room. Even after we get to 10, i still do a number of the day.
I do almost a drum roll approach to see what it's going to be (extra copy of the anchor chart turned upside down)... they get sooo excited! I usually do it in a riddle kind of way. "I'm thinking of a number that we have 4 of in our classroom, they are long and tall, shaped like rectangles and we go
in and out of them"... I tell them they cannot shout out, they must hold their thinking in their brain, and then they turn and whisper to their partner their predictions. Capturing their engagement and attention for our number of the day is so much fun and really starts our day out right, not to mention all of the schema we are building! (Find our Number Sense Anchor Charts here)


5. Invitations to count and practice number sense. There are soooo many ways to do this! Math workshops, labs, centers, small groups, etc. Whatever works for you in your classroom, just make sure you provide opportunity everyday. Practice is essential. Using any hands-on manipulatives you have. Using theme related objects is a fun way to integrate and make it new and fun each week.
As you  observe them at their workshops watch to see if they are beginning to count with accuracy, touching one object and saying one number. If not this is the time to model for them and provide a hand over hand to scaffold for them.


Number sense is essential to any and all future math learning, so starting out with solid instruction and hands-on practice to provide a concrete foundation will be an invaluable building block in their math schema! Find our Number Sense Anchor Charts for Little Learners in the shop to help you guide your young mathematicians!


No comments