Back to school math can be fun! On the first day, engage students with a graphing icebreaker. To assess skills on Day #2, try interactive task cards. Finally, move into some serious numeration. Your students will soon be ready for more difficult material.
Back to School Math Icebreaker
I’ve used the same icebreaker for years! (Why change when it’s so much fun?) The activity begins mysteriously. I tell my new class that they will be making a human graph. They will line up along a wall to show the month of their birthday. There’s only one catch: no talking! At first, they don’t know what to do. Then some kids start motioning. At some point, one of them realizes that holding up fingers works. With a little guidance, they form their graph.
We return to the classroom and collaborate to create a birthday picture graph. After that, I discuss parts and types of graphs. Using the picture graph, each child creates a bar graph. Within the first hour of school, two student products hang on the classroom walls. We’re already forming a community of learners.
As you can see, I love the My Little Monsters theme. (And my kids do too.)
Back to School Math Task Cards – Formative Assessment That’s Fun
Is your beginning of year assessment boring? Jazz it up with some task card fun. First, consider what you need to know about your students’ skills. From that, choose a set of task cards that will match your needs.
At the beginning of fourth grade, I want to know how well my kids can work with whole numbers. Therefore, I created a set of whole number task cards.
On the second day of school, kids complete the task cards. They’re up and active. It doesn’t feel like formative assessment at all. (I recommend using task cards for formative assessment throughout the year. It’s much more fun.)
While they don’t tell me everything, they do provide a great snapshot. My checklist tells me if they can read, write, compare, and round numbers. It also shows who can add, subtract, multiply , and divide. Not only that, I know who can work well with multi-digit computation. It’s golden!
Numeration – You’ve Gotta Know Your Place Value
If kids don’t understand place value, you’re sunk. For our first unit, I review whole numbers. Kids who fared will on the task cards work with numbers to one billion. Those who didn’t do so well only go to one million. I’ve developed a simple set of worksheets and games. We usually work through them in five days or less. What do I want them to know?
- Reading Large Numbers
- Comparing Place Values
- Building Whole Numbers
- Writing Numbers in Standard Form, Words & Expanded Form
- Comparing and Ordering
It’s nothing new! Most years, they pretest out of comparing and ordering. But we need to review all of the others. As we move through the year, I’m never sorry that I spent time on this! Check out last year’s post, Teaching Multi-Digit Whole Numbers, for more information.
Back to school math matters! Set yourself up for success with some fun activities.