Growth Mindset is a hot topic, but what is it exactly and how does it relate to math?
What is Growth Mindset?
Growth mindset is the belief that you can develop abilities through effort and hard work. In relation to education there are certain key characteristics of a growth mindset.
Teachers or students with a growth mindset:
believe that intelligence can be developed
focus on learning vs. getting the “right” answer
don’t give up and try new strategies if something doesn’t work
reflect and learn from mistakes
Math teachers, does any of this sound familiar to you? If not, let’s check out the Standards for Mathematical Practice.
What are the Standards for Mathematical Practice?
These standards are a part of the Common Core Standards. However, instead of a content focus they highlight what good mathematicians do.
persevere through problem solving (SMP 1)
check their answers using different methods (SMP 1)
plan how to solve a problem vs. jumping into a solution (SMP 1)
justify their answers and communicate with others (SMP 2)
To sum it up neatly, both growth mindset and the Standards for Mathematical Practice favor process over getting the answer.
The real question on a lot of teachers minds is: HOW do you get kids to persevere?
In my experience, you can’t just say “PERSEVERE” and be done. In order to be successful, students need tools and strategies to pull from and work through a challenging problem.
So let’s talk about 5 tips that you can use in your classroom to support a math growth mindset.
Tip #1: Use Think-Alouds to Model How to Solve Problems
Think-alouds are so important and are oftentimes overlooked. If we want our kids to develop a growth mindset we must model what that looks like.
Make a habit of showing your students how you would solve a problem and add in growth mindset principles of effort and perseverance.
Example – “Guys this problem looks really tough, but I am going to try my best. First I need to create a plan. Hmmm. I think I am going to draw a visual here. I’ll try an area model.”
Tip #2: Ask Questions that Promote a Challenge
Select problems or questions that have multiple solution paths and/or multiple solutions.
Open-Routed Problem – There are different paths to solve the problem, but only one solution. (i.e. Alicia’s bedroom is 20 feet long and 24 feet wide. What is the area?)
Open-Ended Problem – There are multiple solution paths and multiple solutions. (i.e. Alicia’s bedroom is 480 square feet. Record all the possible dimensions.)
Open-ended questions or problems are especially good for encouraging a growth mindset because the process becomes more important than the answer.
Tip #3: Allow for Opportunities when Students Work Together
Giving your kids the time to work with others will build their problem-solving arsenal of strategies because they will be learning new ways to solve problems from each other.
I don’t know about you, but on more than one occasion one of my students was able to explain their problem solving strategy to another student better than I could.
You can also give team points for things such as effort and accountable talk, in addition to getting the correct answer.
Tip #4: Provide Time for Students to Share Out How They Solved the Problem
After students work with a partner, spread the love!
Call on selected students to share out and justify their answers to entire class. The key for rich discussion is creating a safe environment where your kids will want to share, even if they are unsure of their answers.
Ask things like “What did you do to persevere through the problem?” “What was your plan of attack?” “What strategy did you use?”
Tip #5: Take Time to Reflect (Including Errors)
Celebrate the process, even mistakes.
YES! In fact, mistakes are valuable because we learn from them.
Example – “Thanks for sharing! I see where you were going with this. I think many other students may have the same misconception, so you are helping us. How could you have done this part differently?”
I created this FREE recording sheet that you can use in your classroom to help build a mathematical growth mindset in your classroom.
As educators, we are always on the hunt for ways to engage our kids. What about math songs? Songs are often overlooked as teaching strategy.
In our quest for mastery of ALL the standards, singing songs can be viewed as juvenile or not schedule worthy.
First, let’s not ignore the importance of reaching all of the teaching and learning styles. Some of our students are auditory learners and some songs incorporate movement (a little something for kinesthetic learners).
Second, if you teach or are a parent, you know that kids pick up on songs very quickly. (Even the ones that you don’t want them too!) So why not use this as a way to teach and review?
So, let me share some quick and easy tips for effectively teaching with math songs.
Teaching Tips for Teaching with Songs
1 – Discuss the lyrics first so that your kids understand the content and why they are singing it
2- Ask questions and have students use the actual song lyrics to help them answer
3 -Write the song lyrics on chart paper and add visuals
4 – Add hand movements to reinforce content when appropriate
5 – Remember that a song does not explicitly teach the concept, but it can serve as a way for your kids to make connections and deepen understanding
6 – If you are creative, and I am sure many of your are, take a well known song and change the lyrics to review a math concept
TOP 5 Places to Find Math Songs and Videos
I pulled together some great places to find math songs online.
This is a favorite of mine because there are some great math songs that appeal to older students on this site, which are usually difficult to find. The videos are categorized by math domains and contain a wide range of skills within each one (K – 12th grade).
Let’s talk about this teacher favorite. Go Noodle houses many quick paced videos that will get your kids singing and moving. These videos are great for brain breaks! They are short, highly engaging and to the point.
How many of you have had major technology fails in your classroom? I know I have. There is so much that we can now do with technology. I remember when I started teaching, there were no interactive white boards or iPads. You were lucky if you had a couple of computers in your room for a computer center. Now, you can easily build background knowledge and reinforce concepts with clear visuals that all of your students can see.
But what happens when you are right in the middle of your lesson and your bulb blows out or the infamous computer screen freeze. What is a teacher supposed to do? Well, I want to offer some solutions for the three most common technology fail scenarios.
Technology Fail #1: Problems During Your Lesson Hook or Closure
You just found the perfect opening for your math lesson, a 5 minute video on Brain Pop Jr. that illustrates the concept of multiplication. Your kids are excited because they love Moby. You press play and there is no sound. You play with all the wires that devices and 5 minutes has turns into 20 minutes.
So now let’s talk solutions. Whenever I have small technology glitches, I choose to do one of the following:
Solution 1 – Bring Out the Dry Erase Boards and Markers
Move those small dry erase boards that you have hidden inside the closet to the front of the room. If you don’t have enough for every student, have them work in pairs. Think of a problem and write it on the board. Have students solve on their boards. Use a timer and all students that get it correct in that time frame get 1 point. And of course have them explain how they got their answer. This can also double as a formative assessment.
Solution 2 – Always Have a “Go To” Activity On Hand
Technology Fail #2: Problems During Your Mini Lesson
You are excited about teaching your addition unit. This lesson is going to be a lot of fun because your kids are going to be able to come up to the interactive whiteboard and move the digital base ten blocks to show how you add two numbers together. You call on Ben to come up and demonstrate, but when he tries to move the blocks on the screen, they stay in the same place. He tries again, but the screen is frozen. You shut down your computer and turn it on again while your kids get fidgety on the carpet. The screen still freezes up, so now it’s time to take out the textbooks.
I have been here before. I love displaying clear visuals in my math lessons, so digital math manipulatives are great for increased engagement. Here are some suggestions:
Solution 1 – Gather Your Concrete Math Manipulatives
Time to bring out the real base ten blocks, geoboards and snap cubes. Have the real manipulatives that you were going to display on your whiteboard on hand. If you don’t have enough for every child to have their own, create a system for sharing. That way your kids will know if there is ever a technology fail, this is our Plan B.
Technology Fail #3: Problems During Computer Center Time
Your kids break out into math centers and you have a teacher led group that needs all of your attention. Stacy is finally getting the concept of place value. You are about to give her a high 5 and hear your name being called. All of the students that are supposed to be at the computer station are telling you “The computers won’t work!” You get up and turn all the computers off and on. You send one of your students to the classroom next door to see if their computers are working. By the time you finish troubleshooting, center time is over. This can be extremely frustrating for you and your students, so check out these solutions:
Solution 1 – Train Someone to be a Computer Monitor
Train one or two of your students to be the computer monitors. Take time to show them simple troubleshooting tactics (turning computer off and on, entering passwords, etc.). You may be surprised at what some of your students can do. And if that doesn’t work then……
Solution 2 – Have a Back Up Plan
When you create your back up plan, there are usually 2 types of situations: (1) only one student or computer is having an issue (2) ALL of the computers are malfunctioning.
If only one student is having an issue try sending him or her to join another group or workstation.
If all of the computers are not working, always have an extra math workstation in an “emergency” container. It should be something that your kids are familiar with and like to do, because as we all know kids are very disappointed when they can’t get on the computer. Ready Set Play Math Games are a great option for emergency centers. They are easy to assemble and are a great way for kids to practice math skills.
I hope that these suggestions help if you ever have any technology glitches in the future. Do you have any suggestions for when technology fails in your classroom? Leave a comment below.
Are you searching for an easy way to “hook” your kids into your newest math lesson? Or maybe you want to make a math concept more relatable. One of the first things that pops into my mind when I am brainstorming new ways to introduce a new math topic is: “Which book should I read?”
There are so many cool math themed books out there that focus on math topics like addition, geometry, fractions and more!
But wait…I almost forgot the best part of using read alouds to teach math. Extension activities! After students are familiar with the book, drop it in a math station with a follow up activity. Can’t think of any? Use the ones listed below as a starting point.
Here are some of my favorites math read alouds listed by skill:
What I like most about this book is the use of crayons for counting. Young kids LOVE crayons and which makes this book even more relatable.
Extension Activity: This tip is only if you have a second book. I can’t believe that I am about to say this but tear out the pages of the book (I’m sorry to all the media specialists) and laminate them. Then let students count the number of crayons on the page.
If you don’t want to have any part of a book massacre, get a real box of crayons and a set of number cards. Let students pick a random card and then count out the same number of crayons.
This book says yes to multiple representations in a big way. Use this to reinforce composing and decomposing numbers. I like to use magnets (shout out to Target) on a magnetic white board to represent how the number eleven is broken apart in each one of the examples. This is a great opportunity for a math talk. For more advanced students, practice writing the equations that match.
Extension Activity: Give students manipulatives (snap cubes, color tiles, buttons, etc.) and let them try to decompose a given number as many ways as they can. They can draw their findings and more advanced students can write the matching equations.
This fun book focuses on a larger team of racers that keeps getting split into 2 groups. There is also a little surprise ending that offers a great opportunity to teach about remainders.
Extension Activity: Provide students with large numbers. Let students keep separating them into smaller groups. Choose numbers that have remainders and ones that do not have remainders. Then let them sort the numbers into two groups (Remainder and No Remainder).
I LOVE the way this book is intentional about the use of math vocabulary. I have found that a lot of our kids struggle with understanding what fractions represent and don’t know how to express parts of a whole. This book presents different scenarios where students visualize themselves as “the fraction”.
Extension Activity: Make this book come to life by having your kids act out the different scenarios that are presented on the pages and use the math vocabulary.
This book is great to use but very information heavy, so I recommend breaking it up into parts or only using the sections that you need for your specific lesson. There are sections about parts of a whole, weight, money, and more.
Extension Activity: There is actually an activity that is described in the book that would be a great activity for math centers. It involves using a paper plate and and diving it into equal parts.
Awesome book for teaching shapes and examples of shapes in real life. Each scenario starts off with a regular shape and then it becomes part of a larger picture. You can get real creative and ask some good questions when reading this one to your kids.
Extension Activity: This book serves as a great model for a class book. Have your kids recreate new scenarios with shapes and keep the same wording (Ex. A square is just a square until ……)
Fun story about an unsatisfied triangle (maybe having a mid-life crisis? LOL) that transforms into other shapes. Since his looks change, it can lend to a good discussion about shape families and characteristics.
Extension Activity: Let students use toothpicks to make shapes. They can change their Greedy Triangles into all of the shapes he transformed into in the book and record the different shape characteristics (sides, angles, etc.)
Clean and clear photos of coins with nice visual representations of adding coins that include coin names and amounts. These photos help reinforce using skip counting when adding money.
Extension Activity: There are two pages at the end of the book with photos of coins and missing amounts. Have student write equations that match the photos. For more practice have students use real coins or fake money and create their own coin scenarios.
A teacher favorite. Alexander starts off rich and you can guess the rest from the title. (I understand Alexander. I have been there before too.) This is a good story for teaching different subtraction strategies like counting up, expanded form, bar model, and more.
Extension Activity: Have students work in partner pairs. Let them create their own real world money problems using the names of classmates. Then let their partner solve it.
What I like best about this book are the real life photos (i.e. a traffic light, soda cans) that show real world examples of fractions, decimals and percents.
Extension Activity: This is a great opportunity for your students to brainstorm other real life representations of fractions, decimals and percents. Give them a camera and let them hunt for some in the classroom. You may be surprised at what they find.
This informational book is a nice overview of all things time. Seconds…Minutes…Hours…Days of the Week…Months…Years…Digital…Analog!
Extension Activity: Throughout the book, there are multiple questions for students to answers. As an extension, I would just put out some more problems with some clock manipulatives. Or have students use clock manipulatives to represent times that are written on sticky notes.
A little inch worm talks his way out of certain death and measures his way to safety. Kids love this book, so why not use it to introduce measurement?
Extension Activity: This is such a popular book, it’s an award winner after all. Use colorful inch worm rulers or make your own and let students measure things around the room. Don’t forget to have them record their findings.
Like Fraction Fun, this book is jam packed with information making it a great book to use when introducing new topics. Again, I would recommend only reading the pages that you need.
And we are at the end. I hope you enjoyed reading about my Top Read Alouds for Teaching Math. Be sure to download my list of top math read alouds because there are some additional books that I didn’t mention in this post.
** If you are interested in any of these books I included an Amazon Affiliate link to each one. FYI, if you purchase something through an Amazon link I get a small commission, at NO extra cost to you. This helps me keep the site going so that I can share more and more math tips and ideas with my Math Fam!
Picture this. Your students working together in math workstations doing meaningful math work, while you do your teacher-led small group. How would that feel? Great, right? This can become your reality.
One of the biggest problems that causes math centers to fail is the lack of consistency. This can look like many different things….students sitting quietly at the table and not working on the task, students talking about what they did last weekend instead of engaging in math talk or students constantly interrupting your small group lesson and stating that they don’t know what to do.
Through my many years of teaching, I have discovered that the best way to make students independent during math centers was to incorporate these 7 key components.
1. Always Model 1st
Before I even place a new activity or game into math center rotations, I make sure that I model how to play it in front of the whole class. This gets students familiar with the expectations and cuts down on students saying that they don’t know what to do when they are at centers without the teacher. There are 2 different ways that you can do this:
Teacher-Student Model – You pretend that you are a student. Choose one student from your class and then do the activity as a think aloud. (Ex. “Now I am going to spin the spinner because it is my turn.”)
Student-Student Model – Choose 2-3 students to perform the activity. Guide them and ask questions to the students that are observing the students modeling the activity. (Ex. “What should he do next?”)
Get familiar with the routines and procedures for these free math games and centers and model for your students as soon as tomorrow.
2. Create Photo Directions
So now you have modeled, but we know our kids don’t we? There is a high likelihood that once you have sent your kids to their workstations someone will still say “What are we supposed to do?” Eliminate this with easy to follow photo directions.
Photo directions help because students can see the steps in action. Try to keep the wording short and sweet as well. Don’t overcomplicate things. It’s OK because you have the photos there as reminders.
3. Provide Math Discussion Scaffolds
Math talk is so important during math center time. However, our kids can become so focused on the process of the “game” that the only talk you hear are things like “It’s your go” or “I won”. So how can we make sure that rich and meaningful math conversations are happening during center time?
Provide students with scaffolds that encourage opportunities for math talk. When applicable, use supports like Math Talk Cards, guiding questions and sentences frames to prevent silence or off tasks discussions.
4. Keep the Routine the Same, Change the Skill
This is one of the most important components of making your kids independent. Once I learned this, math center time because so much easier for me and my kids. I started using the same games and activities but changed out the math skill. And that’s it. Simple. Before I would have a wide range of game types and activities. Don’t get me wrong, they were all good activities but my students would always interrupt me during my small group time or I could hear confusion at the center tables (teacher ears are amazing, aren’t they?).
But won’t they get bored? No. Let me be clear. I’m not saying to only use one game type and that’s it. You can switch it up. But just make sure your kids are very familiar with an activity type. This strategy works because kids become so familiar with the game routine that now they can focus on the math in the game vs. how to play the game. After all, the reason why we want them to engage in these tasks is to solidify their math understanding.
Here are 3 of the main game types that I use:
GAME #1: Flip and Match
Sometimes the most simple game can be the most fun. In this game, students have two sets of cards. One set of cards is face up and the other set is face down. Students take turns flipping over the game cards and try to find the matching pair. This game also includes Math Talk Cards for discussion.
Teacher Tip – T0 differentiate the task for some of your students you can keep both sets of cards face up to make it easier. I would also recommend copying each set on different color cardstock.
GAME #2: Face Off
Kids LOVE this game! It is a 2 player game. Each student has their own set of game cards. Students must count down and turn over their cards at the same time. They scan the game board and try to find the correct area to place the game card. The student that slams his or her card down 1st and onto the correct space wins the match.
Game #3: Finish Line
Board games are classic. In this game, students take turns spinning a spinner and answering a wide variety of question types. Kids must answer questions correctly in order to move their game piece.
5. Require the Use of Recording Sheets
Another way to make sure that your students stay on task is to make them fill out a recording sheet. This serves two different purposes: (1) make students accountable and (2) provide you with an informal assessment.
6. Provide Answer Key
Another reason that kids ask for help is because they want to know if they got the answer correct.
I know that you may be concerned that your kids may try to cheat and that is a valid point. However, there are a couple of ways to get around this depending on the math center activity.
One solution would be to have a Game Master. A Game Master is a student that is at the math center but is not actually playing the game. His or her job is to manage the station by checking the answer key and making sure that the game is running smoothly.
Another suggestion is to create a simple yet unique coding system for the answer key so that students can self-check their answers.
7. Allow Time for Sharing
Close out your math centers by providing time for students to share what they did. This helps students become more independent because there is a possibility that you may call on them to share their experiences. This is also a good time for you to ask probing questions and discover what they learned.
Taking all of these things into consideration, I created Ready.Set.Play Math Games for key grade level math skills. You will find all of the tips I shared (answer keys, Math Talk Cards, recording sheets, photo directions) can easily be accomplished with Ready.Set.Play Math Games.
So, if you want to help make your students independent during your math center time check out Ready.Set.Play Math Games. The games are great for elementary students.
Did you know that there is a growing bundle ready for upper grade students? Other grade levels coming soon. Click on the photos below to check them out.
If you want to try it out first, download this free 3rd – 5th grade Number Sense game pack below.
Are you searching for a way to make math exciting to review? Or are you trying to explain to others why math games are not just play with no purpose? Look no further because there are numerous benefits for adding math games to your teaching toolkit. Math games are an effective instructional strategy for reviewing math skills.
How so? Let’s get to it. Math games:
Promote Math Talk
When kids play games with each other, it gives them something to talk about. This can happen during gameplay or after the game is complete. The key is providing students with a structure that fosters productive discussions and academic vocabulary. This can include sentence frames, Math Talk cards or guided questions that are specific to the game.
Create Time for Observation
While your kids are engrossed with playing math games, you are free to observe and assess in an informal setting. You can watch the actions they take and the decisions they make. Record what you notice by taking notes. Your kids won’t notice what you are doing and the pressure of “testing” will not be present.
Provide an Alternative Way to Review
Doing the same thing over and over again can get boring, but games offer different outcomes. Unlike drills, games allow opportunities for repeated practice in a non-threatening manner. It’s more informal because it’s perceived as a fun activity plus it gives students another chance to review important math skills.
Encourage Cooperative Learning
Depending on the type of game, students can work in groups or pairs. Working with peers helps improve interpersonal skills (communicating, being a team player, problem-solving, etc.) The time spent with face to face interactions provides the practice needed to develop these skills.
Now let’s keep it real. As educators, I am sure that you would agree that some of our kids don’t always come to the table with these skills. That is why it is very important that we repeatedly model for students how these skills look. Playing games is a great way to practice them.
Support Different Learning Styles
Let’s talk about differentiation. Our kids learn in different ways, just like us! So, why not use math activities that reach multiple students. This is where games come in. Games are great for:
Visual Learners – when there are models and picture representations
Kinesthetic Learners – when games include hands-on experiences and movement
Auditory Learners – when kids openly communicate and talk to each other
Read/Write Learners – when students use a recording sheet to find their solution
Increase Student Engagement and Motivation
Plain and simple, kids (and adults!) enjoy playing games. So let’s use this love of play to foster a positive attitude about math. I have seen student faces light up when introducing new math games for center work. When given a choice, will students freely choose to participate in whole group gameplay or complete a worksheet? I think you know the answer.
Develop Strategic Thinking
You know how you feel when you are searching for that perfect Jenga piece to pull from the tower without making it all fall down (“Should I pull from the top or the bottom?” “This one looks a little loose. Should I tap it?”) Your kids are making similar decisions when they play math games. They may not know it, but they are thinking strategy. (“What is the quickest way to solve this problem so that I can advance?”)
Build Home-School Connections
Don’t have a clue what to do for Back to School or Family Nights? Play games! Instead of a PowerPoint, show parents what types of activities are happening in your classroom. This way they can get a real picture of what their kids will be doing and have a good time doing it!
Another way to bridge the home to school gap is to provide choice with homework. Don’t be afraid to mix it up! Since the purpose of homework is to practice previously taught skills, send home a familiar review game. Just make sure that they are simple games that can also be played independently.
If you would like to check out a sample of 3 easy and engaging math games for upper elementary students download the FREE sample below.
Math games have a rightful place in your classroom. They are a proven way to get your kids excited about math review. Add them as a normal part of your instruction and start experiencing the benefits immediately. And if anyone says “They are just playing”, share some of the benefits you learned about here.
There are so many great picture books out there to use during your math lesson. You can find topics that range from counting to multiplication. Read-alouds are ideal for drawing children into the math skill that will be taught.
3. Play Games
Who doesn’t like to play games? Games are the perfect way for students to learn and have fun at the same time. There are a wide variety of game types that you can use when teaching or reviewing math concepts. Off the top of my head, I can think of BINGO, War, Concentration, and the list goes on…..
4. Encourage Math Talk
I think we all would agree that kids like to talk. Model how to have meaningful conversations about math. And then allow time for these conversations to take place during your math block.
Sometimes a little repetition is not a bad thing. In my teaching career, I have noticed one thing to be true. Kids love routines (even if they fight against them sometimes). Routines will help you maximize time because your students know the set expectations. As long as you keep the routines engaging, students will be tuned in and look forward to more.
There are so many cool math websites and apps that you can download to review math skills. Some of my favorites are Kahoot! and Math Game Time.
9. Bring In Real Objects
The lessons that I remember the most when I was in elementary school involved the teacher using real objects to teach a concept. You can be really creative when teaching topics like geometry, measurement, graphing, addition…..just about any math topic. Try using a pumpkin to teach addition or use real items to solve a word problem.
10. Get Up and Move
We know that children and adults have different learning styles, so mix things up a little bit and include activities where students have to get up and move. It can be a brief brain break that includes math or a longer activity that where students must sort themselves into groups. Either way, your kinesthetic learners will thank you.
Drawing can be fun and educational. I believe strongly in the CPA (Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract) model. When teaching a math concept using the CPA model, kids first manipulate concrete objects, then move onto drawing models through picture representations and finally use only numbers and math symbols (which is abstract for them). Give students multiple opportunities to draw picture representations. This is where you can really see if students grasp the concept.
13. Use Math Manipulatives
Math manipulative for everyone! Contrary to popular belief math manipulatives are not only for kindergarten students. They are beneficial in all elementary grade levels. Going back to the CPA model, I have noticed that a lot of times teachers may skip this step. I was guilty too! However, this step is essential for conceptual learning. And if you don’t have access to any your school, you can make your own.
I don’t know about you but I have noticed that students are very attentive during science and social studies time. Use their natural curiosity about these topics to tie into your math lessons. For example, if you are teaching about goods and services in social studies, money would be a perfect connecting topic. If you are studying plants, measure their length with a ruler. Be creative!
16. Encourage Cooperative Learning
Create an environment where it is common for students to work in pairs or small teams. They can solve math problems and hold each other accountable. They will also enjoy working with their peers.
17. Include Parents
Yes! This is a MUST! Share ways to make math fun with parents. You can even send home ideas for simple hands-on activities that parents can do with their kids. This way kids are getting the message at home and at school that math is not a scary subject.
18. Make It Relatable
Try infusing math topics into whatever is going on during that time of year. It can be seasonal. Or is a special holiday right around the corner? You can easily take the same math topic (ex. addition) and make it fresh by using different materials (ex. apples, spiders, pumpkins, etc.)
19. Go Outside
That’s it. Go outside and do the same math lesson. Fresh air is good for everyone.
20. Celebrate Special Math Events
Make a BIG deal out of those special math times of the year. Namely, the 100th Day of School and Pi Day. Although these are the Big 2, you can come up with creative ways to celebrate student math accomplishments (i.e. knowing all of their multiplication facts) as well.
21. Create Opportunities for Friendly Competition
Competition doesn’t have to be a bad word. Once students learn your expectations around competitions, you will see high levels of student engagement. And don’t forget, competition does not always have to be against another team or student. Some students like to set personal goals and compete against themselves. So, bring on the Math Fact Competitions!
22. Know Your Kids Interests
What do your students like about math? What do they find challenging? Create a Math Interest Survey and see what they want to learn about.
23. Find Interesting Math Tasks
Substitute a math task instead of a worksheet. There are many places where you can find grade level appropriate math tasks. Check them out and see what would work best for your kids.
What better way to get kids excited about their own learning than to have them create problems for their classmates to solve? I have used this strategy in the past and have seen much success. Students LOVE to see the problems they create solved by their friends. They especially like inserting their names into word problems.
Many times our kids get stumped when trying to solve a word problem. Have students actually act out the word problem using real life objects. This will help them “see” what is actually happening in the word problem. The extra bonus is that students work on their acting chops.
28. Sing Songs
Music is a great way to start a math lesson. You can even use it as a brain break. There are a lot of music video resources on the web. Take a look around and see what you can find for your grade level.
There are so many ways to differentiate a math lesson. You can differentiate by content (what is being learned), process (the actual activity) or the product (how student demonstrated mastery). You can breakdown many roadblocks for kids by meeting them where they are on their math journey.
30. Introduce STEM Projects
STEM projects by nature are very hands-on and cross-curricular. They also focus on real-world problems and are usually collaborative. So far that included 4 of the recommendations on this list. STEM projects can be a solid way for kids to love math (and science).
Whew! That was a long list. I hope that you will take away one or two ideas from this list and make math fun! Don’t forget to download the FREE checklist so that you can refer back to this Ultimate List of Ways to Make Math Fun anytime.
As you know, I am always trying to think of fun and interactive ways to teach math. I wrote a blog post a while ago about ways to make reviewing multiplication fun and one of the ideas was to buy “Hello My Name Is” name tag stickers and write equations on them. Then students would have to call each other by the product name. As that idea developed, in my mind, I thought about how it could work for a large number of skills……. And Math Name Tags were born!
There are so many ways that you can use math name tags but I am going to focus on my Top 5:
1. Introduce Yourself During Morning Meeting
Morning meeting is a time for greeting each other. For a new twist, you can give your kids a Math Name Tag and have them introduce themselves to their classmates. For example “Good Morning 27, my name is 51.”Once your kids are given their tags, they must wear it and it becomes their name during that time. They can even wear it for the rest of the day. I have found that kids will put extra effort into learning their new “names” and the names of their friends.
2. Play Line Up, Round Up and Match Up Games
As I began to fine tune my idea, I thought about having two main types of name tags. One type has a clear visual model to support conceptual understanding and the other type has the standard name or some variation of it. You know I LOVE visual math models!
Depending on the skill that you are teaching or reviewing, these games are a win for kids because these activities get them moving. There is a wide range of activities to choose from. You can have students line up in a specific order, sort themselves into groups or find their matching partners. All of these game descriptions are included in each Math Name Tag set and are specific to the math concept being taught or reviewed.
3. Review the Number of the Day
Select a Number of the Day and use the Ten Frame or Base Ten Math Name Tags to do activities like composing and decomposing the chosen number. You can also find one more, one less, ten more and ten less.
4. Use for Lesson Warm Up or Wrap Up
Whip out Math Name Tags to do a quick opening hook or lesson closure. Pre-select the tags you want to use and have a small number of students perform a shorter version of Name Tag Match Up. It’s a quick and easy way to introduce or review targeted math skills.
5. Play Red Rover During Recess
Let the kids burn off steam and review math at the same time. Does anyone remember Red Rover? I may be showing my age here! You have two teams line up opposite each other. The first team agrees to call on one student. They all chant “Red Rover, Red Rover send (name) right over!” And the student whose name is called runs over to try and break the chain of linked hands. You have probably guessed by now that you would not use the student’s real name, you use his or her math name.
Again, there are so many different ways that you can use Math Name Tags. You can use them to play games during recess, teach a concept during your math block, greet each other during morning meeting or for a quick review during closing circle. I offer a lot of activity suggestions in this resource, but be creative!
If you can think of any other ways to use them with your students, please share in the comments section below.
Are you looking for new ideas for hands-on Fall math activities? Look no further, I have a great math activity just for you, Pumpkin Math Investigations!
Using read-alouds to teach math concepts is a great way to engage our kids. One of my favorite Fall math books is How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? In this book, a classroom of students guess how many seeds are in a pumpkin. This is the perfect set up for a math activity.
With that said, let me share Pumpkin Math Investigations!
What You Will Need for Lesson 1 and 2:
– Book – How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?
– 1 Pumpkin (Lesson Parts 1 and 2)
– A Small Pumpkin OR Pumpkin Seeds in a Brown Bag for each Small Group
What You Will Need For Lesson 3:
– A Plate
– Pumpkin Seed Grouping Mats – Free
– Pumpkin Investigations Recording Sheets – Free
– LOTS of Hand Sanitizer (LOL!!!!)
This activity is intended to last a couple of days, moving from whole group to small group lessons. Each lesson is focused on grouping, skip counting, comparing numbers and addition. So let’s get to the math!
PART 1: Whole Group Activity – Estimate How Many Seeds Are in the Pumpkin
Read How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? and ask questions. Tell your kids that you bought in a pumpkin, like in the story and you want them to guess how many seeds are inside.
Have students guess the number of pumpkin seeds and record the responses. Write initials next to the number that students guess. Next, remove the top of the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. To get all the seeds you will probably have to use your hands. It’s messy, but fun!
Let your kids see the pumpkin seeds on a plate and ask them to now estimate the number of seeds on the plate. Ask if anyone wants to change their guess. Revise student answers to reflect any changes.
Teacher Tip – Let the seeds air dry, but do not leave them on a paper towel because they will stick. I learned the hard way!
PART II: Whole Group Activity – Count the Pumpkins Seeds
Once the seeds dry, count the number of seeds using the different grouping mats. Model skip counting on each mat and adding the leftovers.
Record the total number of seeds on a chart. Have a discussion by comparing the estimations and the total amount of counted seeds.
Write addition equations that represent the seeds on the counting mats.
Teacher Tip – For time’s sake, if you want to skip the part where kids scoop the seeds out a pumpkin, use prepackaged pumpkin seeds instead. Place the seeds in a brown paper bag and ask your students to estimate the number of pumpkin seeds in the bag.
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Try out these fun Halloween themed math activities in your classroom. You can differentiate each one of these ideas and use them in your Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms.
Webby Math Representations
Use a web template and attach a string to it. Based on the level of your students, choose a number that you want them to represent. Write the following on a label “Ways to Represent (Your Chosen Number)”. Place a label in the middle of the web. Give your kids index cards and let them write up as many representations as they can think of on their index cards. Then let students pin their index cards to the string with clothespins.
Note: Representations can range from pictures to expanded number sentences. Accept any representation as long as it is the same amount as the chosen number. Your students might surprise you with their creativity.
Teacher Tip – Have students work in small groups and see which group is able to create the most representations.
Create and write math related True or False statements on index cards. Place them inside of a Halloween themed bag. Throughout the day pull a True or False statement out of the bag. Ask one of your students to answer the question and justify his or her answer. If students answer correctly, let them pull something from a bowl of treats (i.e. erasers, candy, pencils, etc.).
Teacher Tip – Call on students randomly. You can write each students’ name on a popsicle stick and then pull their name from a cup. That way students know it is a fair process.
Fill the Pumpkin
Obtain two pumpkin-shaped containers and popsicle sticks. Determine how you want students to sort cards into the two containers (i.e. Odd and Even Numbers, Greater Than/Less Than, etc.). Create sorting cards using index cards and glue them to the top of the popsicle sticks. Allow your students sort the cards into the correct pumpkin.
Teacher Tip – You may want to copy the category cards on different color paper than the sorting cards so that students are reminded of the sorting categories.
Teacher Tip– If you can’t find any pumpkin shaped containers, use regular containers and tape a photo of a pumpkin on them.
Create a spider template using construction paper. See the video below for instructions on how to make it. Write a number sentence in the middle of the spider (i.e. 25 + 10 is the same as…). Have students write an equation on each of the legs that is equal to the same amount. See photo below for example.
Teacher Tip – Use a plate to make a circle for the body of your spider.