Daily Math Warm-Ups

I'm being optimistic when I claim that each year about half of my lessons are keepers, the other half gets dumped in the crap-lessons-landfill.

I'm pretty happy with the way I'm doing math warm-ups this year, more importantly, the kids tell me they like the format and the questions. I need to point out that I have the students for two periods of math each day, so we can afford to carve out 10 to 20 minutes for these.

A week of warm-ups looks like this:

Monday: We begin each week with a puzzle sheet called What's Next? Using Patterns to Solve Problems from AIMS Education Foundation. I bought all three volumes at $18.95 per volume; they're now available to download as PDFs. I use Vol 1 with my 6th graders and Vol 3 with the 8th graders. (I don't teach 7th graders, I don't like them.) Each volume has 44 activities, enough for the school year if used weekly.

I LOVE these puzzles. When we define mathematics as the study of patterns, it's great to reinforce this in everything we do, and these puzzles are constant reminders of this definition. The example below of page 20 is The Sierpinski Triangle (yesterday I saw @lostinrecursion's pretty exponent fractals), so we had used it on week 20 of school.

I'm proud that my 6th graders are now finding the equation for the nth term. They may not always reach the equation (time constraint too), but they definitely show perseverance in seeking it.

Tuesday: We do Week by Week Essentials on Tuesdays. To save paper, I photocopy this on the back side of What's Next? You can download a whole year's worth for each grade level here. Doing all five categories (Algebra Alley, All About Data...) may take too long, so we normally do three or four of these. The kids do not get enough geometry and probability from our regular middle-school curriculum, so this warm-up is a nice way to touch up on these concepts.

Wednesday: Also from the same website, we work on Keeping Skills Sharp on Wednesdays. 

Thursday: The kids can't wait for a new "Fun Fact" each week. I just wrote up about 40 of these in Word and use one each week. For the example below (also for week 20), I would show the students the fun fact but cover up the number "76" with a post-it note. The kids would write down their guesses. After everyone has made a guess and placed their pencils down, each student shares his/her guess out loud. The person with the closest guess gets a treat; when the best guesses are really close together, they all get a treat. I love it when kids tell me they share the fun facts at the dinner table.

Update 8/21/12: Many of you have asked for the Fun Facts; sorry to be so slow to figure out that I should just post them! Here they are: Math 6Algebra (thank you Ms. Jones for contributing these!), and Geometry. The highlighted part is what I will cover up with a sticky note for kids to guess.

Friday: We end the week with writing a "Math Reflection." I try to have the kids write as often as I can in math. I tell them to reflect on what we had done in math for the week, and to jog their memory I list on the board the concepts and activities that we'd covered. The only rule I have is they must write for the entire 5 minutes — keep their hands moving. I'm honest with the students when I tell them that I look forward to and enjoy reading their reflections over the weekend. Sometimes they'll write a little extra — about a great soccer game they had during the week or an upcoming birthday party — and it's perfectly okay and appreciated by me.

  • Trackbacks are closed for this post.

  • April 2, 2012 9:25 PM Rachel wrote:
    These are fantastic! I'm always thrilled to learn about new resources I'd never encountered. Any chance you'd consider sharing your "fun facts" list? I think I'd like to steal this idea, and would love some inspiration.
    Reply to this
    1. April 2, 2012 9:36 PM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Thank you, Rachel! Sure, I'll email the fun facts (in docx) to you. The document doesn't have the images (so my file doesn't get too large) because I just google the image I need the day of and just copy-and-paste. Some fun facts do not have numbers, so you can just cover up whatever word(s) you want the kids to guess. Enjoy and thanks for stopping by!
      Reply to this
      1. August 22, 2012 8:22 PM Dave Foster wrote:
        Hi Fawn!

        I would love to steal your fun facts if you would kindly send them to me. I am starting my 2nd year as a math teacher in a Boston public high school, working with students who are way behind in their fundamental math skills, many of whom have lost their confidence/interest in math. These look like a win to me!

        Dave Foster
        Reply to this
        1. August 23, 2012 7:19 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
          Hi Dave! You do mean that they look like a #nguyen to you, right?! ) Please check your mail.
          Reply to this
  • April 3, 2012 1:44 PM Dr Nic wrote:
    Hi Fawn
    I love what you do in the class room - and thanks for your comments on my blog.
    I would love it if you would try out Rogo with your class. You can find out about it at:
    I would be delighted to make you some worksheets to your specifications, and also send some promo codes for the iPad/iPhone app.
    Reply to this
    1. April 6, 2012 8:11 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Hi Dr. Nic. Thanks for the link and I watched the video on how to play Rogo also. At this time I have a lot of games already for my students to play, it's finding time to play them is the challenge. The iPad/IPhone app is not appropriate for us either, but thank you.
      Reply to this
      1. August 28, 2012 3:44 PM Dr Nic wrote:
        Hi Fawn
        Thanks for taking the time to look at it. I thought it would be a good way for students to develop their addition and subtraction skills as a worksheet. Not really just a game. But thanks anyway.
        Reply to this
    2. August 20, 2012 5:32 PM Lynette Colon wrote:
      Hi, my school is really delving into technology and I'm part of the initial pilot. We have started with three instructors in the middle school with macbooks and a 30 iPad cart. I am still in the works of researching resources and saw your comment on Fawn's blog and would love some information on iPad/iPhone applications. Any information you can share would be great. Thanks.
      Reply to this
      1. August 28, 2012 3:47 PM Dr Nic wrote:
        I can only really tell you about our apps - we have a puzzle math app called Rogo, which kids really like, and a more advanced one on statistics, called AtMy Pace: statistics. Doing a google search on Rogo puzzle will get you to our sites.
        Reply to this
  • April 4, 2012 4:48 AM Patricia Shuman wrote:
    Hi! I am a math remediation teacher in middle school and we are developing a new schedule and class for me and I love your warmup ideas and plan to use a couple of them. I was wondering if I could have a copy of your Math Fun Facts? I love the idea of having real world examples of math, especially from those pesky 7th graders who want to know WHY we have to learn any of it. THANKS!

    Trisha Shuman
    Reply to this
    1. April 6, 2012 8:00 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Hi Trisha, we could use more of you at our school. I'll email you the fun facts right now. Thanks for stopping by!
      Reply to this
  • May 2, 2012 10:50 AM ljones wrote:
    I've started using some fun facts once a week and am always looking for additional ones. Could you e-mail me a copy of your fun facts? I've enjoyed finding your blog - you've got some great ideas and a fun way of working with your students. Thanks.
    Reply to this
    1. May 2, 2012 11:22 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Thank you for your kind words! Absolutely, I'll send you all three sets. This summer I plan to revise them (some of it sucks), and I'll remember to send the revised ones to you and those who'd asked for them.
      Reply to this
  • May 27, 2012 8:57 PM Timon Piccini wrote:
    Awesome! Stolen, stolen, and stolen. I just have to go buy those books.
    Reply to this
    1. May 27, 2012 11:05 PM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Thanks so much, Timon!
      Reply to this
  • June 21, 2012 3:58 PM Julie Reulbach wrote:
    I love the pattern workbooks! I teach many of my standard lessons through discovery of the pattern. I am constantly challenging my MS students to discover the pattern. This would be a great addition! Thanks! Julie
    Reply to this
    1. June 21, 2012 7:00 PM fawnnguyen wrote:
      It's a great set. It's not often that I find workbooks that are great cover to cover, but these definitely are. I really see growth in these kids in seeking patterns in everything we do! Thank you for dropping in, Julie.
      Reply to this
  • June 30, 2012 12:24 PM vanvleettv wrote:
    Do you collect the warm-ups or take them for a grade? What do you do with the students that just don't do the work?
    Reply to this
    1. June 30, 2012 11:00 PM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Yes, I collect them on Fridays and give kids points. They ALL do them  
      Reply to this
  • August 12, 2012 7:50 PM Jeanne Galyen wrote:
    I am a first year middle school math teacher and am following your advice with these classroom warmups! I love it! I see that others have asked you for a copy of your fun facts. Could you email me a copy as well? That would be so helpful! Thanks!
    Reply to this
    1. August 13, 2012 4:32 PM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Sure thing, Jeanne! Thanks for droppping in.
      Reply to this
  • August 14, 2012 4:38 PM Beth wrote:
    Just found your blog this week ... and love your ideas for variety in warm-ups. I'll be teaching all Algebra 1. I plan to borrow some of your ideas and create one or two of my own! Thank you for sharing.
    Reply to this
    1. August 18, 2012 12:39 PM fawnnguyen wrote:
      How did you luck out with just one prep?! But I like variety too and love teaching geometry. Thanks, Beth, for your kind comments! Please feel free to keep in touch if we can collaborate in any way.
      Reply to this
      1. August 18, 2012 6:40 PM Beth wrote:
        Not sure ... but happy to give it my 100% attention! I'll have 6 block classes - A/B days ... 90 minutes each. I've been out of the classroom for 12 years so I'm glad to find great ideas in the various math blogs. I've been reading the "Made4Math" posts ... amazing ideas!
        Reply to this
  • August 19, 2012 8:35 AM Nat wrote:
    I want to be in your class! I love these daily routines, and how they maintain a focus on the big picture through the whole year. Also, I'm jealous of your two math periods per day! Thank you so much for sharing your resources and your insightful reflections on teaching. I've shamelessly borrowed several of your lessons (the donut volume might be my favorite!).

    At the risk of being greedy, I'd also love a copy of your math fun facts. I also incorporate math regularly into our grade 7/8 newsletter and plan to include a version of your Family PS as a regular feature this year. Thanks so much for sharing those resources as well. I'd love to see some of your newsletters in more detail as well.

    Your work has been important and truly inspirational for me and for my students. Reading your blog always goes to the top of my list when you have a new post, the only one in my reader that I just can't resist - even if I have other pressing matters. THANK YOU!!!
    -Nat (2nd year grade 7/8 teacher)
    Reply to this
    1. August 19, 2012 8:08 PM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Okay, Nat, your super kind and super sweet comment just put me over the moon!!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH for telling me. I know it's such a luxury to have kids two periods for math! We are lucky to have so many teachers blogging and sharing lessons, struggles, ideas. I'm super flattered and happy if you can take any idea from this blog -- please steal away! I'll send you the fun facts right now, along with some of the family PSs! Please stay in touch and don't ever hesitate to ask if there's ever anything I might be able to help with.
      Reply to this
  • August 19, 2012 12:00 PM Caitlin Brown wrote:
    Hi Fawn,

    Just stumbling on your website now - so many great ideas! Is there any chance I could get your list of fun facts? The idea of students sharing these at the dinner table is incredible. Thank you!
    Reply to this
    1. August 19, 2012 8:15 PM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Hi Caitlin! Thank you so much dropping in. Yes, I'll send you the fun facts right now.
      Reply to this
  • August 20, 2012 5:49 PM Lynette Colon wrote:
    Hi Fawn,
    Amazing work. I've been teaching math for 20 years and am always looking for ways to continue my learning and get my students excited and vested in math. You have wonderful ideas and an awesome site. I would love to know if you could share your fun facts document and any iPad/iPhone applications or sites. Our school is embarking on an ambitious technology plan and I am on the look out for iPad use. Again, thanks.
    Reply to this
    1. August 21, 2012 10:03 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
      I really appreciate your kind words here, Lynette. We're all here to share and although blogging takes a lot of time, it's a labor of love and it's first and foremost to help me reflect and improve. The fun facts are now uploaded above, but I'll also email them to you.

      I just did a workshop sharing iPad apps, but mine were more for teacher use as many of them never owned an iPad. For use in the classroom, with kids, I'd start with Dan Bowdoin's blog http://timeproject.edublogs.org/. Also, I'll send a tweet now to Dr. Nic to address your comment above to her.

      Reply to this
  • August 21, 2012 5:47 PM Lam Le wrote:
    I am a BT @ middle school 7th grade, and love your ideas of using the fun facts and the week by week Essentials. Any classroom management, or decorations idea for classroom Fawnnguyen
    and can you please send me an email of what games you play with your class

    thank you

    Reply to this
    1. August 21, 2012 6:57 PM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Hi Lam! Thank you, and I'm glad you could use the Fun Facts and ideas in this post. There are lots of games that I play with my kids, but it's difficult to describe them here and many are at school. (I have 2 more weeks of summer before classes begin.) For review, we play password, jeopardy, and bingo. These you can tailor to the concepts that the class is working on. But I have other math games too. However, there are many other problem-solving tasks that I want to do with my kids that we normally don't have time for these games. You asked about a math "puzzle" in your email. I'm sorry I don't know what you mean. Please explain again.

      Tina (Drawing on Math) has a wonderful #matheme page where she curates teachers' blogs on lots of different ideas. Please check out this page at http://drawingonmath.blogspot.com/p/matheme.html.

      Reply to this
  • August 31, 2012 8:14 PM Reena Street wrote:
    Hello, I am a new middle school math teacher. I am 2 weeks into my school year and I feel so unorganized. I am trying to implement a math notebook/journal of some sort to help them with vocabulary and notetaking but it's not going that great. I am trying to implement a "bell-ringer" and I like your ideas. Can I too please have the fun facts list? Also, will the items/books you use be appropriate for 6th 7th and 8th grade?
    Reply to this
    1. September 1, 2012 10:18 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Hi Reena! I'm starting my 23 year (geez!!!) and I'm still more unorganized and befuddled than the last year. Give yourself time to settle in. The fun facts are already posted above but I'll send them again in an email. Yes, the books are for middle school and up. As I stated in post, I use Vol 1 for 6th graders, Vol 2 for 7th, and Vol 3 for 8th graders.
      Reply to this
  • September 28, 2013 8:16 PM Jenny wrote:
    This is amazing.
    Reply to this
    1. October 13, 2013 11:36 AM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Thank you, Jenny! Hope you could use some of it.
      Reply to this
  • October 8, 2013 11:38 PM Mark Dittmer wrote:
    I would like to become your stalker--I mean, protege. But if I never invest the hours necessary to track you down, observe you until I can copy your every move, and then BECOME you, well we can both settle for the fact that I read this post, and it sure seemed helpful (will start trying to use some of these activities tomorrow). Will write more later; right now both me and my computer are about to run out of batteries. Thanks for blogging!
    Reply to this
    1. October 13, 2013 12:41 PM fawnnguyen wrote:
      You're funny, Mark. Becoming me means going crazy every other Tuesday. Not pretty. I'm glad you could use some of this stuff. Thanks for dropping in and letting me know!
      Reply to this
  • January 8, 2014 5:44 PM Debbie Fries wrote:
    This blog looks great...sign me up!
    Reply to this
    1. January 11, 2014 6:27 PM fawnnguyen wrote:
      Thanks, Debbie!
      Reply to this
Leave a comment

 Name (required)

 Email (will not be published) (required)


Your comment is 0 characters limited to 3000 characters.