Math Routines that Boost Achievement- Starters

Welcome Back to Transformation Tuesday! I hope you had a restful break and that you’ve had a smooth transition back to school! Tuesdays will once again be Transformation Tuesday and I’ve got an exciting line-up of new series for you this year. Up first, in honor of back-to-school, I want to highlight classroom routines that will give you the most bang for your buck (so to speak). Each week in September, I will highlight a math routine that can be used to boost your students’ achievement.

It’s no secret that our teaching minutes are precious. Every minute must count! Using starters offers an additional opportunity to get your students thinking mathematically from the first moments of class– the best moments because it’s a chance to “hook” your students right from the start.

Starters are critical thinking activities designed to get the students thinking about math and provide opportunities to “sneak” in grade level content and skills in a fun and engaging way. Designed to take no more than 5 minutes of instructional time, starters can include a variety of tasks. In order to get the most out of the time, I have a different starter for each day of the week. Check out a few of my favorite starter activities!

Number of the DayNumber of the Day

This is an activity that I first read about in a book titled Guided Math. In this activity, students use their critical thinking skills to represent numbers in a variety of ways. This activity also provides opportunities for students to practice composing and decomposing numbers, an essential skill for building students’ math power.

For this activity, prepare a sheet of chart paper, whiteboard space, or interactive whiteboard space. Based on the age and ability level of your students, write a number at the top of the space. For example, a Kindergarten teacher may write the number 10 in the space, whereas, a fourth or a fifth grade teacher may write the number 1000. As students arrive, or during another designated classroom time, students write various representations of the number in the space. See the pictures to the right for examples. As you can see, I encourage creativity!

After all students have had an opportunity to add input to the space, review the representations together. Allow students to ask questions about the representations and the contributing student to respond. Often times, students will question why a particular representation was included. This provides an excellent opportunity for the students to develop communication skills and explore different ways of thinking about numbers.

Critical Thinking Task

I typically complete this task with my students twice a week. It builds critical thinking and strategic thinking skills and includes a wide variety of activities and challenges. I generally use the same activity for 4-6 weeks before changing to another activity. Unlike the first starter task that is based on computation and numeracy skills, these tasks are just fun! My favorite critical thinking tasks are the ones which involve using number tiles. The most popular activities are number clues, place value puzzlers, weight logic, and logic puzzles. To keep the activity time under five minutes, I usually just do one task; although, I am always tempted to do another. I enjoy introducing the task, allowing students time to determine the answer, and then having a student or two explain how they arrived at the solution to the class. Check out some of the resources that I like to use for this activity below. These freebies, and some holiday-themed others, can be found in my file cabinet, in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, or by using the links below.

* Solve It! Fall Sampler

* Number Sense Tiling Task

Today’s Number Todays Number

This activity is similar to what younger grades teachers do with calendar math, but I adapted it to suit the skill level of my older students. It reviews important number sense-related vocabulary. Generally, I choose a number (1-100) for the students to use as “Today’s Number”. (You can also use the current day of the month as your number.) Students complete the half-sheet using this number. (If the arrays are large, students can just write the factor pair instead of drawing the array.) What I love about this activity is that it changes as our curriculum does. I add additional number sense-related words and harder computations as we encounter then. The example to the right would be used earlier in the year. There are lots of these floating around Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers where you can find one that meets the needs of any grade level.   

Word Wall Activities

This activity emphasizes important math terms and vocabulary displayed on your math word wall. The activity that I use most often is called “I’m Thinking of a Word Wall Word.” Here’s how it works. 1.) Choose a word to define and say, “I’m thinking of a word wall word that means (insert the definition here).” 2.) Ask students to survey the word wall and raise their hands to respond. 3.) Repeat the process for 5-10 words. The students really enjoy this activity and I have found that, over time with regular use, my students have become more proficient with their math vocabulary. Click here to find a list of my other favorite word wall tasks! 

Stay tuned for more math routines during the month of September!

 Sound Off! What math routines do you use?

Shametria Routt Banks

Shametria Routt Banks

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