Additional Math Pages & Resources

Monday, July 23, 2012

Five-Minute Math Class Warm-Up Activities

Making every minute count in your math class means giving the students something to do the moment they enter the room. It also means teaching them the proper procedure so no time is wasted. Since the new school year is fast approaching, we wanted to give you some tips for getting off to a great start. How wonderful would it be if your students were on-task before the bell rings, already beginning the work of learning mathematics (or whichever subject you teach).

My husband is a middle school history teacher who has his students begin the class by filling out their planner, adding a proper heading to their page, and copying Geography Brief information into their notebooks from the board or computer projector. However you begin your class, discipline problems are kept to a minimum when your students know they must be on-task from the minute they enter the room. (And at the end of class, letting them know the bell does not dismiss them—the teacher does also helps them stay on task until the teacher signals it's time to leave.) Having control of the class, filling each moment with well-prepared activities, and setting up a structured way to begin the lesson that they can count on each day provides students with a sense of security and familiarity. 

Many of our students today come from chaotic, confusing and unreliable environments of parent job loss, disfunctional families, unstable home life, exposure to drugs and alcohol, helicopter or absent parents, foreclosed homes, deteriorating neighborhoods, questionable friends, and technology overload. Your classroom may be the most stable environment your students have. And you, the teacher or administrator, may be one of the few trusted adults in their lives. No wonder they crave structure, clear guidelines and a safe place to learn. Your classroom can be a safe haven in the midst of the storms of your students' lives. When you are a class manager, rather than a disciplinarian, the whole learning atmosphere for your students improves.

According to Harry Wong, educational speaker from Mountainview, California, "What you do the first day of school will determine your success for the rest of the school year. You would not expect a truck driver to haul an expensive load without first making sure he knew how to drive the truck. Neither can you expect students to succeed if they do not know the routines and procedures of your class." Read more from Harry Wong at

Muxin Li, editor and writer for the Women of China magazine has recommended, "Decide on a short, five-minute warm-up activity to use at the beginning of each class. Beginning class with a consistent warm-up activity will prepare students for the lesson and can help them develop a valuable skill throughout the course. Using effective PowerPoint presentations can be a great teaching tool, but they shouldn’t replace instruction. " Read more from Muxin at

Here are some five-minute classroom warm-up activities to fill those first few minutes as students enter your room and get settled in for math class.

This is a well-thought-out 8th grade math class warm-up routine from the Teaching Channel:

And here's a Basic Fact Practice section from Excel Math 2nd Grade Student Worksheet Lesson 106:
Basic Fact Practice from Excel Math Grade 2 Student Worksheet Lesson 106

You can use this free math worksheet with your students for bell work. Download and print a copy for each student. Give each student a blank sheet of paper along with the Basic Fact Practice sheet. Have the students print their names at the top of the page and then cover up all except the first line of Basic Fact Practice and begin solving the problems. They should do as many as they can in 5-10 minutes. When they finish the first line, they can move on to the next. When you give the signal that time's up, they stop where they are and continue solving the problems on the page the next day. 

You can go over the answers together and help students who may need extra practice. The idea is to provide your students with opportunities to practice basic math facts so they become easier as the year progresses. If students can't recall basic facts, it will be difficult for them to learn other concepts in later years. You can use this worksheet for timed exercises as well as just for individual practice. Click here to download your copy. The answers are given below.

Mental Math is a good way to help students practice calculating math problems in their heads. The teacher reads numbers aloud and the students practice adding or subtracting the numbers in their heads.  Visit our website for a free download of this resource. The Mental Math PDF file includes instructions and a table of numbers up through 100. After your students complete their bell work at the beginning of class, do 5-10 minutes of mental math with them before jumping into the lesson of the day. You can also do a few minutes of Mental Math at the end of class whenever you have a few minutes remaining before the bell.
Read more about Mental Math and how to use these sheets on our previous blog post:

If your students have access to technology, they'll enjoy this timed math fact practice on the Excel Math website. (Thanks to our friends at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory for creating this timed math game and letting us use it.) You can choose which number should be at the high and low ends of the practice and whether to have your students practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, division (formatted as fractions), or random equations. Try out the Excel Math Timed Fact Practice and see how many problems you can solve in 60 seconds.

Learn more about how Excel Math can work for your students at Excel Math is fully aligned to the Common Core and to state standards. Download correlations.

If you have additional math warm-ups you've used with your class, feel free to share them in the comment section immediately following this post. (Click on the word comment to begin.)

New to Excel Math? Learn how to get started.

Here are the answers to the Basic Fact Practice Sheet shown above:

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