Week of Valentine-Inspired Math Starters

This week, as a way to celebrate February and the upcoming Valentine’s Day festivities, I’ve created five Valentine’s Day-inspired starters that are sure to engage your students and get them thinking critically about math. I designed these activities to target grades 3 – 5; however, they may also be appropriate for other grades depending on the ability level of your students. I’ve provided an answer key at the end of the post.

Starters are critical thinking activities designed to get students thinking about math and provide opportunities to “sneak in” grade level content and skills in a fun and engaging way. 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. Designed to take no more than 5 – 10 minutes of instructional time, starters can include a variety of tasks. To allow for some variety and support the strengths of my students, I use a different starter for each day of the week. Read more about them here.

Ready for some Valentine’s Day fun? Let’s get started!

Monday: Estimation 180

This activity actually came from a fantastic website called Estimation 180 where students are presented with a picture and asked to estimate some quantity related to the elements of the picture. For this particular task, students are asked to estimate how many candies are in the bag. The beauty of this task is the discussion piece. Listening to students communicate how they arrived at their estimates will reveal a lot about their thinking. The creators of the website also emphasize discussion surrounding estimates that are too low or too high and the thinking required to rule out a certain set of quantities. Learn more about Estimation 180 here.


Tuesday: Weight Logic Puzzle

I call this next activity a weight logic puzzle because students have to use the weight on the scales to determine the numerical value of each egg. (Note: Identical eggs weigh the same amount.) At first glance, these puzzles may seem very challenging for some students. be sure to encourage students to look for the best place to start. Then, be sure to probe further to make sure the students understand why one starting position may be better than another. Use the questions below to support students during productive struggle.

a. Where is a good place to start? How do you know?

b. Once you believe you have determined the value of one of the eggs, how can you use the information to keep you moving forward?

c. How will you know when you have completed the puzzle correctly?


Wednesday: Traditional Problem Solving

This task is a traditional problem-solving scenario. To get the most from this task, allow students an opportunity to complete the problem individually or with a partner. Students can then record their thinking and their work on a dry-erase board or piece of scratch paper. After all students have had an opportunity to complete the task, review the students’ solution strategies as a class and discuss the most effective/efficient methods for completing each task using math talk. Use the questions below to support students during productive struggle.

a. What do you know about the treat boxes?

b. What information can you use to help you get started?

c. What process will you use to solve the problem?

d. How will you know if your solution is reasonable?


Thursday: Cupid Logic Task 

This task requires students to analyze number sentences and determine the value of each symbol. (Note: Identical symbols have the same value.) It emphasizes all four operations, logic, and algebraic thinking. Therefore, after students have completed the task, discuss the ways that students approached the task with questions such as:

a. How do you determine where to start?

b. Are there number sentences that help you “narrow down” the possible solutions?

c. What do you do when you are stuck?

d. For which number sentences is it easiest to determine the value of the symbol?

e. In what order did you complete the task?

f. How will you know your solution is correct?


Friday: Which One Doesn’t Belong? 

The last task is a very open-ended one. In fact, as long as students can justify their response as to why one heart is out but the others are in, they are correct. This is a great opportunity to allow students to get creative with their reasoning. Here are a few examples of characteristics to use to group: color, design, etc. For this task, you may want to divide your room into four sections and assign each heart a section. Then have students go to the section of the heart they feel does not belong. Once divided into groups, have each group discuss what defining characteristic they used to select the heart. As students discuss, be sure to wander around and listen to the variety of ways students excluded the same heart. Then, have each group share some of their reasoning.

Want all of the starters in one, easy download? Click here!

Answer Key: 

Monday: About 40 jelly hearts. (Source: http://www.estimation180.com/day-96.html)

Tuesday: Egg with Hearts- 4, Egg with Polka-Dots- 5, Egg with Strips- 3

Wednesday: Vera’s treats weigh 6 ounces. The treat box weighs 2 ounces.

Thursday: This question specifically refers to the sum of the symbols; however, the individual values are as follows: heart = 4; bug = 2; cupid = 1. The sum of the symbols is 7.

Friday: Answers will vary.

I hope these fun starters help get you and your students in the Valentine’s Day spirit! Want more fun, lovable math tasks? Click here to check out Solve It! February in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. And, while you’re there, be sure to grab these two freebies: Valentine’s Day Weight Logic and Solve It! February Sampler. Enjoy!


Sound Off! Which task do you feel will be the most beneficial for your students? Why? Respond in the comments below.

Shametria Routt Banks

Shametria Routt Banks

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