5 Ways to Warm Up Your Math Block

Two years ago I finally switched my math block to the morning, because I was having such a hard time integrating it into other subjects, and our daily schedule was feeling a little bit choppy. This worked well, but I felt like I needed to have a few tricks up my sleeve to transition from the housekeeping tasks of entering the room and readying for the day, to our actual learning time.

Throughout the year, I used five different things that worked very well. I switched them up periodically so that my students would not become bored. Since there are five, you could even do one for each day of the week. That choice, of course, is totally up to you.
These warm up activities also use a variety of grouping strategies to keep your students’ interest level high.

Math Warm Up #1: Mission Possible Math
I am certain that you must know the most amazing Hope King. Hope blogs over at Elementary Shenanigans, and if you ever have a chance to see her in person, jump on the opportunity. She is so inspirational and motivating (plus she is a whole lot of hilarious). 
You can read Hope’s post here. Basically, the students are asked to solve specific problems in a set amount of time. You can really amp up the excitement by playing the Mission Impossible theme, which is also a great way to measure the time. When I use this, I have the song loop to play through twice, which is a perfect amount of time.
I LOVE that it’s called Mission POSSIBLE Math, which totally puts the idea int he mind of the students that it is absolutely possible to complete the tasks set forth before them.
Math Warm Up #2: Number Talks
I know that several people use Number Talks sometime during their day. I love gathering my students on the floor and having them talk to each other and myself about what they know about math. The fact that Number Talks uses specific routines, such as thumbs up when a student knows an answer, helps to set the structure for our math lessons.
When we use Number Talks as our warm up, we focus on the previous day’s lesson. I pull problems from the day before and change them up a little, and present them as part of our Number Talks. If your district uses Common Core Standards, be sure to purchase the most recent version, as it has CCSS connections. If you are looking to purchase the book, you can find it on Amazon or check your local math resource office (if you have one).  
Math Warm Up #3: Word Problems
Word problems are such a critical way to get students to really think about their problem solving, and to experience problem solving in a variety of ways. Word problems are used in our every day lives, and often found on standardized assessments.

I noticed last year that while my class was very math-minded, they struggled with pulling out the important information in word problems, or they were unsure of what to do with the information in the problem. This led me to create monthly sets of world problems that focus purely on one skill for the entire month.

These are very low prep. Simply print, cut in half, and glue into math notebooks. If you want to go an even easier route, print out one, display it on the board, and have students work through the problem in their notebook or on a whiteboard.

Another great thing about using the word problem warm ups is that early finishers can meet together and discuss how they solved the problem of the day. I really enjoy listening to the conversations that take place during that time, and it is a excellent time to collect anecdotal records on how students are doing with problem solving.
You can grab the monthly word problems here

Math Warm Up #4: Jot and Trot
This warm up is great for students who need to get up and move. If you teach math later in the day, 
this might be a great fit for your students. 

use the 12 x 18 construction paper and put a number, problem, or
question on the paper. I use 4-5 different pages per warm up session,
depending on the number of students I have. If you have a collection of
math task cards, this is also a great place to use those just simply
place the card on top of the construction paper and students can write
on the construction paper, around the task card.

rotate throughout the room, “jotting and trotting”. They jot down their
ideas about what is on the paper or task card, and then move throughout
the room working on all 4-5 problems. I allow them to go back to
previous problems, as long as they are being thoughtful about what they
are doing, and not using it as an excuse to zip through the room.
during this time, I will play soft music. I usually ask for no talking
during this time, so that students can formulate their thoughts (and it
reduces the instinct to play and not work).

Math Warm Up #5: Sort It Out
This idea was inspired by the amazing Ian Byrd. 
I start with a blank T-chart. I have various numbers, shapes, or problems on sticky notes spread all around the board. Students work to sort the information on the sticky notes into two categories. They must use all of the sticky notes in their sort. Then, the students then must label their two categories based upon their sort.

For example, in the picture above, the sticky notes were sorted into odd and even numbers. They could also have been sorted into greater than 10 and less than 10, or 2 digit numbers and one digit numbers. As long as the student(s) can defend their answer, and all of the sticky notes are used to successfully fit in one of the categories, then their answer is acceptable.
The options are endless. You could do odd or even sums, quadrilaterals or non-quadrilaterals, addition or subtraction problems, greater than or less than a number, 2-D or 3-D shapes, numbers you say when counting by twos or numbers you say when counting by fives…and the list goes on.

This can be done whole or small group. If you want to use it with your whole class, simply project your image onto the board (or better yet, set it up for your smart board), and have a group of students work together to sort the data.
This does take a little bit of prep, but you could create several of them at once and pull them out as needed. I assure you, this is one of my students’ favorites, so the few minutes of prep work is worth it in the end.

I hope that you are able to implement one or more of these into your math block and that it inspires your students to raise it up a notch during their math time.

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  1. I love these! I, too, have had difficulty teaching Math after lunch in the afternoon. I like the idea of doing one of these every day of the week to spice things up! I used Number Talks last year and really liked them, but sometimes it just wasn't a good way to calm students after lunch. Thank you!
    Daisy Designs

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