Math warm-ups are my favorite part of the math lesson. Since we follow a district mandated curriculum, it is the only part of the math lesson I am really allowed to plan completely by myself, which I love doing.
In case you are unsure, math warm-up time is 5-10 minutes set aside at the start of your math lesson to help get children focused on the topic. Generally students have spent most of their morning in Literacy instruction. Therefore, it is a real change of gears for them and the math warm-up can be an extremely useful tool to get students focused and ready to learn the math lesson of the day. There are few “rules” about math warm ups with can be very liberating but also very intimidating.
My Favorite Activities for Math Warm-Ups:
An important guideline to which activity you choose for a math warm up is that it must tie directly to that day’s lesson, or don’t do it. Your time with your students is precious and you don’t want to spend 10 minutes playing an addition facts game to suddenly switch to an coin recognition lesson. Get them excited about math in the warm up and ride that wave of enthusiasm through the rest of the lesson.
1. Play a math facts game. If students will need to have great math facts fluency during the days lesson a fast paced math facts game such as addition around the world can get them excited about the day’s lesson.
2. Read them a math story. There are loads of math books out there, and most are really good, but buying up a bunch for your classroom can get quite expensive. My teammates and I decided to each create a math book mobile library for our classrooms. There are 4 of us and we each purchased a basket of 10 math topic books. Each quarter we pass the book baskets to another teacher, until we have all has a chance with each book basket. It works out well, and students love book basket day when we switch and get a whole new library of books. Each year each of us add a couple of books to the baskets, making it an even better resource.
3. Play a computer game. I am fortunate to have a smart board in my classroom, and so will use that to have students take turns playing a math game related to the day’s lesson. The bonus to this activity is that students love to revisit these games at packing up time, or inside recess if they can. Some websites I find games at are:
4. Stories make great math warm-ups. Tell a story of math in the real world. I shouldn’t say this but…. it doesn’t even have to be a true story. Make up some silly story about how you, or someone you know made a math mistake and see if they can figure out what the problem was. My students love hearing about how I mess up getting what Mr. Carr’s Grandma wanted from the grocery store because she gives me really weird directions. The Stories I make up go something like this, “Yesterday I sure had a tough time at the grocery store. Grandma Carr gave me a weird list with the sales flyer attached ad I couldn’t figure out what she wanted. I might be able to get what she wants tonight on my way home, if I can only figure out the list. Do you guys think you could help me?” Then the list will say things like, I want the third item from the top on page 2. Or, it might give a clue like. I want you to get 3 cylinders from page 1. The stories are unbelievable and the character isn’t real, and I think my students know that – but they love it when I have a Grandma Carr mystery for them to solve. I think it helps them feel very grown up.
In an effort not to loose their attention I try to be as hands on and engaging as possible during this part of my mathematics instruction. Even though my students would love to play math around the world every day (until they got bored) I don’t let them. Varying the type of math warm ups your do with your students keeps the lesson fresh, fun, and engaging. I hope I have shared some helpful ideas for this coming school year for you. If you have any other ideas to share please leave a note in the comments section below.