Smashing Strategies for Guided Math: Starting the Day With Math Warm-Ups

I am thrilled to be joining a wonderful group of teacher bloggers to share a variety of ideas related to Guided Math!! This is my first post in our Smashing Strategies for Guided Math series, and I thought I would start off by sharing ideas for starting the day with Math Warm-Ups!!

Math Warm-Ups are a great way to start your math day! This time at the beginning of your math block is perfect for getting students to start thinking about all things numbers and mathematics!! When used effectively, math warm-ups lead to great thinking and great conversations. Here are a few tips for selecting activities for meaningful and effective warm-ups...

Tip #1: Choose activities that students can complete independently. 
It is important that students are able to complete these first math tasks of the day without help. This will help them to feel confident in math, and ready to tackle whatever the day brings. Being able to complete a math task independently sets a nice tone for the rest of the math block, especially for those students who struggle.

Tip #2: Choose activities that build on new or past learning.
Reinforcement of recently or previously taught skills is the key to mastery. It is so important that students continue to practice concepts and skills well after they are taught. Some of the activities that I talk about below are perfect for students to demonstrate different concepts and skills they learn throughout the year.

Tip #3: Choose activities that will lead to meaningful math conversations.
Math Warm-Ups shouldn't just be worksheets that are completed, corrected, and then put away! You want to choose activities that are going to lend themselves to meaningful conversations between students, whether in pairs, small groups, or as a whole class. These conversations are perfect for exposing students to new ideas and new understanding.

Tip  #4: Choose activities that are routine or familiar to students.
I like to use activities that students are familiar with and which are a part of our weekly routine. Time is wasted when we have to spend too much of it on directions or explaining an assignment. When students are familiar with an activity, they are able to get started right away, use their time effectively for thinking and recording ideas, and also know exactly what is expected of them.

I have put together a collection of some of my favorite activities for Math Warm-Ups. You can download them for free by clicking HERE!! You can also read about these favorites....

Activitiy #1: Incredible Equations
For this warm-up students come up with 4 equations that equal the number of the day. I like to use the number that goes with the number of days we've been in school. What I love most about this activity is that it is easily differentiated, as students will choose to write equations based on their own comfort with numbers, and understanding of mathematical operations. A student who struggles might choose equations with small numbers and simple operations, while a student who needs a challenge might use larger numbers and more complicated operations. After students have some time to write their own equations, I like to have students share their equations, by writing them on the whiteboard and explaining how they equal the number of the day. This gives students the chance to see numbers and operations in a variety of ways, and may introduce them to new ideas and understanding.

Activitiy #2: Number Talks
This activity can be used in a variety of ways. I like to use this with operations with large numbers. I write a problem on the board, like 52 + 69, and ask students to use any method(s) they can to solve the problem. I have them record their thinking using drawings, equations, and written explanations. Then we come together and students share the different ways they solved the problem, using the document camera to show their thinking. This allows students to see a variety of methods for solving the same problem, and helps broaden their understanding of numbers and operations.

Activitiy #3: Math Terminology
I like to use this activity to review key terms that students have recently learned. First, students record the term and find the definition in their math book. Then they have to re-write the definition in their own words, show an example, and draw a picture or diagram. I usually have students share these in small groups, so that they can add additional details as they converse with their classmates.

Activitiy #4: Show What You Know
This activity is one that I like to give at the beginning of a new unit, or before teaching a new concept or skill. For this activity, students can use words, pictures, diagrams, examples, and/or explanations to show everything they know about a given subject. For instance, at the beginning of a fraction unit, I may ask students to show me everything they already know about fractions. When we come together, to share, I like to record students' thoughts and ideas on the board or on an anchor chart. This activity is great for activating prior knowledge, getting students thinking about a new concept or skill, and also gives me an idea of where students are at with a certain subject. This activity also works great at the end of a unit, when students can demonstrate everything they have learned throughout that unit.

Activitiy #5: True or False?
For this activity I like to give students an equation or comparison, such as 5.9 < 5.89, and have them determine whether the equation or comparison is TRUE or FALSE. Students then need to go on to defend their answer, and explain why it is true, or why it is false. I then give students time to share their answers and explanations with their seat partners. And finally, we come together as a class to discuss. This is a great way to get students to PROVE and EXPLAIN their thinking.

I hope that you will be able to put some of these ideas and activities to use in your own classroom. Be sure to check out the other links below for some great ideas related to Guided Math!!