Lesson Hooks for Math: 5 Starters

Engage your math students right from the start. In this post, I share five engaging lesson hooks for math, including resource links to get you started.


Have you ever seen a movie or read a book that begins with a murder?

No introduction. You don’t know who the characters are, but somebody gets murdered.

It feels like the creator forgot to provide some important background details to help you understand what you are seeing or hearing.

Except, the creator didn’t forget.

Starting with the murder scene was intentional.


Because now, you’re hooked!

So often, the first part of a book or a movie can seem long and arduous while you’re getting to know the characters and the setting of the book.

But, it’s easy to give up when it takes too long to get to the good stuff.

Starting with an exciting event is a strategy creators use to engage readers and hook them into the story before they give up and turn off the movie or put the book down.

Start with Engagement

Why not think about our lessons in the same way– start with something fun and engaging that hooks your learners right from the start.

As a teacher who followed the 5-E model lesson plan structure for all of my math lessons, this was the best part of the planning process. The “Engage” activity, the first part of the 5E model lesson, set the stage for the rest of the lesson. I knew that if I got their attention early on, I had a good chance of retaining their attention long enough to teach the content I was trying to teach.

How did I do this?

Here are five of my favorite lesson hooks for math.

5 Lesson Hooks for Math

This is an example of a web game used to launch a math lesson.

Short Game

Our students love to play games, so why not start the lesson with one!

Start your lesson with a Bingo-style game that reviews a prerequisite skill, such as an angles Bingo game before a lesson on classifying triangles. Or, what about a fun web-based game that connects to what you’re teaching, such as a function machine game before a lesson on writing rules for tables or using fraction models to review equivalent fractions before a lesson on adding and subtraction fractions.

You could even use a card and dice game to generate some energy, such as using a simple cover-up style game to review multiplication facts before a lesson on multi-digit multiplication or a create-a-number sentence game before a lesson on order of operations.

Resources: Math Playground and Cool Math 4 Kids


This is an example of a Three-Act Math task.

Video Clip

Just like with movies, engaging your students with a video clip can be an excellent way to start your lesson.

Specifically, 3-Act Math tasks are perfect for using video media to launch a topic, even if you don’t finish the video on the first day. You may choose to show the first act to launch the skill and then move into your lesson.

The Girl Scout Cookies video from Dan Meyer’s Three-Act Math website would be a great launch for a lesson on volume. After watching the video, you may want to ask the students how they could determine the number of boxes in the trunk and record their responses on chart paper. As you move through the lesson, allow the students to refine their ideas.

Resources: Dan Meyer Three-Act Math Tasks and Graham Fletcher’s Three-Act Math Tasks


This is an example of how math picture books can be lesson hooks for math.

Picture Book

One of my favorite ways to engage my students is through the use of math picture books.

There are many math picture books available to can support the standards that we teach. Use them to introduce a skill or create a context for a concept.

For example, I love to use The Greedy Triangle to introduce classifying shapes. As a middle school teacher, I liked to introduce scale factor with a fun book called Cut Down to Size at High Noon. Both of these books are great springboards for a math lesson.

Looking for great math picture books? A quick Google search will bring up a long list of books. If you’d like a video version of a math picture book instead, a search on YouTube will bring up a list of videos of people reading the picture book. Note: Please preview video books before sharing them with students to ensure they are appropriate.

Resources: Grab a free copy of my Engage Students with Math Picture Books resource pack, including a list of ways to launch a math lesson with a picture book and a list of my favorite math picture books, using the form below.


This is an example of a question that can be used to launch a math lesson.

Real-World Problem or Question

Starting a lesson with an engaging problem or discussion question can also be a way to not only provide context for a concept but also incorporate problem-solving.

For example, consider the following problem. The Chaney family hiked 1 3/4 miles on Saturday morning. They hiked 1 5/8 miles on Sunday morning. On which day did they hike the shorter distance?

Beginning a lesson with a problem like this and providing students with the time to think through and justify a response will give you great feedback on how much your students already understand about comparing fractions and the strategies with which they are comfortable.

Similarly, using a Would You Rather question like the one above, forces students to communicate about their thinking and use their math skills to justify their answers.

Resources: Which One Doesn’t Belong?, Would You Rather, Estimation 180


Notice and Wonder

Have you ever thought about launching your lesson with a picture and creating a “Notice and Wonder” chart with your students?

Consider the picture below. What would your students notice? What would they wonder? How could this image be used to launch a lesson about prime and composite numbers?

This is an example of notice and wonder activities can be used as lesson hooks for math.
Photo Credit: https://mathforlove.com/


Final Thoughts

Selecting an engaging way to launch your lesson can be a game-changer for you and your students. If they’re engaged from the start, it is much easier to keep their attention and to help them master the necessary content and skills.

Try using one of the lesson hooks for math in your next lesson and watch your students’ level of engagement soar.

Sound Off! 

What’s your favorite lesson launch? Respond in the comments below.


Mockups courtesy of Coffee Beans and Children’s Dreams

Lesson Hooks for Math: 5 Starters Lesson Hooks for Math: 5 Starters
Shametria Routt Banks

Shametria Routt Banks

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