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Meaningful Number Talks in Kindergarten


One of my goals this year is to really focus on developing strong number sense in my Kindergarteners. I want them to grow in their understanding of how numbers work, what they mean, and how they relate to one another and the world around us. I needed a fun and effective way to incorporate more number sense into our day, so this year I am working hard at having meaningful number talks EVERY day!

*Pair with our Play and Learn with Manipulatives Bundle for Pre-K & Kindergarten!

Try this fun and simple way to incorporate more number sense into your morning routine and have daily, meaningful number talks EVERY day!

Meaningful Number Talks in Kindergarten

As with almost any skill, the best way to become stronger at something is to practice. This daily “Counting Cup” activity is so simple and so fun! Plus, it uses items you likely already have on hand.

Let’s get started with the supplies you will need:

For this Kindergarten number talk, grab a cup or jar and some fun manipulatives for counting.

How to Play

Each day, after the main calendar routine (which is pretty quick – you have to keep everything at a good pace in Kindergarten or I can promise you, you will lose them to floor rolling and carpet lint picking) we count the items in our “Counting Cup.”

Since we are working with numbers 1-20, I line the items up for the students to see the entire amount. Right now we are using counting bears, but I change up the manipulatives every so often.

We then turn and talk, think aloud, and share about all the ways we can represent that number of items.

Below is our example on the whiteboard for the number 6. The ways we represented 6 were as a number word, numeral, tally marks, objects, and as an equation.

We take a number and write multiple ways it can be represented on a whiteboard.

We get the equation by separating the items and looking at them in two separate places. Then I take a certain number in my hand (3 in the example below, but 4 when we did our equation) and we count how many are left out.

I guide them through the understanding that the number of bears in my hand, plus the number left out, equals the number we started with.

I want them to visually see and practice the taking apart and putting together of sets as we begin to develop a sense of addition and subtraction.

I guide students through understanding that the number of bears in my hand plus the number left out equals the number we started with.

RELATED RESOURCE: Counting Centers and Activities for Pre-K & Kindergarten

We do a few take-aparts and put-togethers to further help them understand that no matter how I separate them, there are still 6 total bears. We then add the equation to our chart.

This may sound like it would take a while, but I can assure you it does not! Our whole calendar routine, including the number talk, is 10 min max!

Plus, with turning and talking they are having engagement with peers and furthering their understanding (turn and talk is another thing I am trying to incorporate more and more!).

If you like this quick and easy number talk, you will also love this One-to-One Correspondence Counting Game. It’s so simple and effective that we play it almost daily!

Each student has their own whiteboard to write the representations of each number.

Probably the most rewarding thing I have seen (besides their understanding of numbers) from these number talks is a student doing number talks with their friends during our daily center/free exploration time. It made my heart happy!

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12 Responses

  1. Is there a resource or a book you recommend to help with starting out and continuing throughout the year so that I can have a sequence to follow?

    1. Samie,

      Hi! We can recommend Intentional Talk by Elham Kazemi and Allison Hintz. It dives more into math discussions in the classroom. 🙂 Though it won’t give a specific sequence or be just for Pre-K, it will provide more expertise on the topic.

    1. Hi there! I do keep going over 1-20 with them to really build up that solid foundation, but as the year progresses we get more into decomposing numbers and more equations as well to really build and break numbers apart in several ways (even 3 part equation for example) to stretch their thinking on what a number really represents. Hope that helps! 🙂

  2. You might highlight the number before and the number after–or the number that is one smaller and the number that is one larger. You might also show it on a 10 frame or double 10 frame.

    1. Hi Bonnie-I love those thoughts! I need to update this post to show what we do as the year progresses. I love how you mention double 10 frame as well. That is wonderful when doing teen numbers! Thanks so much for adding your thoughts and ideas! Happy Teaching! 🙂

    1. Thank you!! It was funny, I saw your comment and profile pic and was like "I know her… it's Mrs. Murray!" HA – gotta love Instagram! I swear I "know" lots of teachers from there!

    1. Thanks Kathleen! I love seeing ideas from other teachers too – gives me more to think about! I definitely like building things into our daily routines. After all, kindergartners are totally about routine! 🙂

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