What are math stretchers? These are math warm ups that are facilitated by the teacher to encourage deeper thinking in a variety of math concepts. They are meant to be only a few minutes in length and should help students to recognize patterns and relationships in the bigger ideas of math. They should always be created with the standards, students’ needs, and grade level in mind. They do not need to be complex and should first be completed by the students independently before being discussed and analyzed together as a class. This provides opportunities for purposeful math talk and use of math vocabulary.
Five Math Warm Up Ideas
These math warm ups are a fun way to get to know your students! Teachers select ahead of time what question he or she would like to pose and the three answer choices. This could easily be posed first thing in the morning when students arrive and are making their lunch choices. After all students have answered the question, together as a class decide what kind of graph to create. In the beginning, the teacher should provide think alouds and strong support. Then help students progress to work more independently. It’s important to discuss what they observed and inferred, and to ask open-ended questions. I have created quick graphs using sticky notes, tally marks, and so on.
This math stretcher is something that you would only want to implement occasionally. For homework the night before, you would have students record the different ways they (and their families) utilized math. They can write about them, draw them, use number sentences, or any other representation. When students arrive at school, simply have them add their examples to a chart. Together at the start of math, discuss the results. It really helps students see the value of math in our everyday lives.
Number of the Day
I have seen many teachers implement this over the years. It is meant to be a quick review to show students patterns and relationships among the numbers. Like most math warm ups, it doesn’t need to be long nor elaborate. Simply provide students with a number, and then they figure out multiple ways to represent it. Their representations could involve base ten, pictures, operations, decimals, comparisons, and so on. The further you explore your curriculum the more representations students will create. Discuss together any patterns they have observed or any relationships. Also, have students explain their reasoning.
This mini-activating strategy is good for introducing new concepts in math or for review of a previously studied concept. Begin by having students record a word (or words) that they think of when given a concept, such as fractions. Have students explain what they wrote and why they chose those words. As you progress through the unit, students can add more words to this chart.
On chart paper, place a pattern followed by enough blank spaces for each child in the class. The pattern does not have to be whole numbers. Students take turns filling in the next step in the pattern, and then they write their initials under it. After your class has finished, you could have students discuss if they agree or do not agree with one another’s response and why. Students who made mistakes should correct their own errors.
Again, all math stretchers are meant to be brief and as warm ups. Typically I provide the math warm ups first thing in the morning as part of my students’ routine, and then we come back to it and discuss it at the start of the math block. I do not use a math stretcher each day, but I do try to do several a week and rotate between them. Of course, you are more than welcome to assign a day of the week to each type.
Looking for more math ideas? Check out the posts here!
The Nitty Gritty:
- Teachers can use math warm ups to encourage deeper thinking in math concepts. These warm ups, done independently first and then discussed, shouldn’t take much time and should be created with the standards, students’ needs, and grade level in mind.
- Five Math Warm Up Ideas:
- Data Collection and Analysis (Pose a question & give three answer choices. After all students have answered, together create a graph of the information.)
- How Did My Family Use Math Last Night? (For homework the night before, have students record the ways their families used math. At school the next day, students will add their responses to a chart.)
- Number of the Day (Give students a number and have them represent it in multiple ways. As a class, discuss patterns, relationships, and reasoning.)
- Makes Me Think Of… (Give students a math concept. On chart paper, have them record words that they think of when they think of the math concept. Students need to explain why they wrote the words they did.)
- What’s Next (Put a pattern on chart paper. Make sure it has blank spaces for every student. Students take turns filling in the pattern. Have students discuss their answers.)
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