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:


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 Paul Salomon’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.


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. [Update, July 10, 2015: This link no longer works. Seems North Carolina is re-working these pages and will release them on their site.] 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.



Also from the same website, we work on Keeping Skills Sharp on Wednesdays. [Update, July 10, 2015: This link no longer works. Seems North Carolina is re-working these pages and will release them on their site.]



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.


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.


[Update 08/21/12]

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: fun fact math 6fun facts from Jones Algebra (thank you Ms. Jones for contributing these!), and fun fact geometry. The highlighted part is what I will cover up with a sticky note for kids to guess.

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