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ALI Staff | Published April 14, 2023

When you’re looking to introduce or review a math concept, use warm-ups at the beginning of class to get students engaged and ready to dive into the class lesson.

In just 5-10 minutes, students can complete a warm-up activity that gets them thinking about math and having fun right at the start of the period. It’s a great way to shift students into a math mindset and immediately engage them.

Math warm-ups enable students to practice skills they’re learning and review previously covered ones.

Being quick, warm-up games and activities are also great for you since they require minimal explanation and setup. Not only that, but they provide an excellent opportunity to utilize STEM learning.

From games to puzzles, worksheets to reading aloud, here are 10 math warm-ups to get your students excited about math.

For younger grades, this is a great warm-up that allows students to focus on a single number but think about it in a variety of ways.

To get this activity going, pick one number and ask students to do a series of things with it, such as:

- Writing it in words
- Writing it in numerals
- Writing it in tally marks
- Putting it into an addition/subtraction/multiplication problem
- Writing a world problem that totals the day’s number
- Illustrating the number in a creative way
- Finding it on a number chart or a number line

Based on how big the number is, you may modify which tasks you ask students to do, but each option provides plenty of practice, familiarizing them with the number of the day.

When counting those bigger numbers is getting tricky, set up a connect-the-dot worksheet warm-up, but instead of starting at one, start the dots at a higher number.

Maybe students need to connect the dots from 50-to-100 to get that secret shape. This is a quick worksheet activity, but it will help them practice their counting skills.

Games are always fun, especially when the whole class participates, and bingo is a tried and true favorite. You can play number bingo to help students recognize more complex numbers or a modified, visual version when teaching shapes or simple equations.

Bingo cards can have a combination of all three to make a more advanced game. Imagine a bingo card where when you draw the number 10, students can mark a box with an equation whose answer is ten or one with ten circles in the space.

This type of bingo requires students to think and think fast if they want to get that elusive B-I-N-G-O.

When place value is the theme of the week or lesson of the day, math warm-up games can focus on putting numbers that look very similar into order from smallest to largest (or largest to smallest.) It’s okay to try and trip up students here, giving them choices that look like this:

1099, 1909, 1900, 1999, 1009

Organizing these will take a minute and really makes students think about place value, all within the first few minutes of class.

Another way to make a quick math warm-up idea easy to implement is by using a math journal. This is a way for students to participate without having to turn in a worksheet or even have others really see their work.

This can be something you check weekly as a completion grade since there’s no pressure associated with the work.

At the start of each class period, put 1-2 equations on the board and ask students to solve them in their journals using a strategy they’ve already learned. Maybe you give them some choices of math strategies or require a specific one.

Either way, this is a straightforward practice that gets your students’ heads into the math from the very start of class.

Telling time and understanding how months and dates work are important skills that many students struggle with without practice. Starting class with a look at the calendar, and asking students to write out the date in words and numbers, makes it easy to add this into the routine.

To take things up a notch, give them a clock face to add the hands to so they can display the date as a time of day.

For a bonus, have them tell you what day of the week it is too, and maybe even spell it out.

For example:

If it’s Tuesday, April 11, have students write April eleventh and 04-11. Then, ask them to draw 4:11 on a clock. Finally, ask them what day of the week it is (and hope they all say Tuesday.)

Getting students hands-on when it's time for math classroom games is always a winning strategy, and it can also work as a warm-up idea when you’re looking for some quick math.

For a fun and easy way to get a little addition into the warm-up, hand out sets of dice to each student. Give them a certain number of rolls for each set (5-6 would work in a 10-minute period.) Have them catalog the results for each roll on a sheet of paper by drawing the resulting dots from each die. Then, have them convert the results into an equation and solve it.

This also can work for simple subtraction as long as you remind students that the larger number on the dice pair should go first in their equation.

To align your math warm-ups with STEM practices, make one day a week about warming up with a book that features math. Universal favorites include:

- The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
- Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth and Laura Huliska-Beith
- Five Little Monkeys Sitting in a Tree by Eileen Christelow
- Chicka, Chicka, 1, 2, 3 by Bill Martin, Jr.
- How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

To engage your students in this warm-up even more, ask them to bring in their favorite book from home that features numbers and read it to the class. Not only does this make a fun way to connect to the daily lesson, but it also adds literacy into the mix!

Warm-up games involving mental math take the work off the paper and ask students to make calculations in their heads.

This is quick math without pencils, calculators, or any other counting tools.

It's a great warm-up to help students practice those math facts they’re meant to memorize, whether it’s addition, subtraction, multiplication, or a combination. It replaces simple flashcards and makes things more challenging and fun.

Mental math can involve class discussion too, where students look at a problem or two on the board, solve it in their heads, and then share their answer and how they got there with the class. This number talk is a great way to engage everyone.

You can also do mental math warm-ups by asking students to go up a number ladder, where each level requires some kind of computation to reach the final answer at the top.

For example, at the bottom, give the students a starting number, then to get past the first rung, they need to add six to that starting number.

Next, they must subtract two, etc., until they get to the top and reveal the answer.

Once the activity is done, you can go through each step on the board to help those students see where their mental math might have taken a wrong turn.

There’s nothing more fun than doing math without feeling like you’re doing math.

To transform math work into fun math questions is quite an achievement, and creating a riddle or puzzle to solve is a great way to accomplish this. Especially if you’re working with larger numbers, this can get really fun.

Start with a list of clues to help students solve the puzzle. You can also reveal the numeral in each place of the final number but do it out of order. Students could also be required to do small equations to solve for each place.

Either way, each clue gets them another numeral in the final answer and makes for a fun way to review.

To get more advanced, you can offer fun math equations that use pictures as clues to help decode the final equation students must solve as the answer to the warm-up.

While you may not always have time to kick off math with a warm-up, they’re guaranteed to open the class up on a fun note.

When you can, these simple activities are easy to implement and provide practice in an engaging and different way that gets everyone into math from the start of class.

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