Activities, Assessments, and Ideas for The First Day of Math Class

The first day of math class is right around the corner! Are you feeling those first day jitters yet? In hopes of easing your jitters I wanted to share a few ideas, activities, and my favorite way to assess student’s needs during those first few days of class. I’ve even included a freebie or two that I am confident you will love. One gives students the opportunity to struggle and fail, (don’t get me started on the importance of this). The other leads to meaningful discussion rich in math, and doubles as a fun bulletin board to be displayed throughout the year.

Before sharing the activities I wanted to share a couple thoughts pertaining to that first day of math. Most likely, of all the classes this will be the class filled with the most dread and anxiety. Address it. Many of your students already believe they are bad at math. They must know this is not the case. 3rd grade me can relate to this feeling, high school me can relate to this feeling, and college me can relate to this 2x over, for this I am grateful. In the end this empathy fueled my need to better support, explain, and practice. I am a better teacher because of this. Just because someone has had poor experiences with math in the past does not define them, nor their capabilities. When students realize the potential within them… they can do anything with the right support.  Be clear. There will be times this year they fail. There will be times of struggle, but if they don’t give up, and agree to put in the work… so. will. you.

1. Free Math Puzzle Activity:  

Naturally, this brings me to one of the first activities you can do on that first day of math class. Want it to be even more impactful, save the struggle speech for after. The suggestion of introducing students to struggle during those first few days of math class came from a dear friend, and teammate. SO. MUCH. WISDOM. Struggle reveals true character, and that is where growth and progress takes place. By having your students struggle in a controlled environment you are better able to reach them and instruct them about how to address and appropriately react to these strong emotions. That way when those same reactions come, at times when you aren’t aware, students will have already practiced and be prepared as to how to work through them. If this strikes a chord with you, make sure to check out my Grit and Growth Mindset Challenges.

The 7th challenge, The Nitty Gritty Bewilderer, is available for FREE Download here. The free download does not include the reflection sheet that all paid challenges do, however it is a great place to start! This activity introduces students to some fun math puzzles with a fascinating history. If you like this make sure to check out the other challenges that can last throughout the year. Watch the video below for more information. ***You may decide to save this as a second or third day of math activity… Remember anxiety and stress levels in students will be at an all time high that first day, It may be wise to allow them time to settle in before putting their mindset to the test!

Click here to purchase the Benjamin Franklin & Magic Square book I mention in the video below

Watch the video below for a quick run down of what the free sample activity includes:



2. Free Math is Everything Activity and Low-Prep Bulletin Board:

If ever there was a PERFECT first day of math class activity… this would be it. This activity can span across all grade levels due to the rigor you set through discussions, and expectations. This activity leads to meaningful discussion, an increased awareness of numbers, and an improved appreciation for mathematics. I was searching for a meaningful first day of math class activity when I stumbled across this quote by Shakuntala Devi:

Without mathematics, there’s nothing you can do. Everything around you is mathematics. Everything around you is numbers.

After reading this I knew I had found the foundation for the activity. Essentially you will break the students into small groups. Together they will brainstorm examples that support the quote above. How is math involved in sports, food, art, daily tasks…etc Challenge them to be prepared to back up their ideas with evidence. Next, come together and discuss as a whole class. Keep a running list of all the ideas and topics listed. Take the discussion further by asking students to think of occupations or careers that involve math. After the discussion students will design a hexagon based on one of the ideas listed on the board. They will be tasked with illustrating and explaining the application. Gather student hexagons, print and cut out the other bulletin board materials, including that cute border… and assemble! This is an exclusive and FREE download to members of On Lemon Lane. Simply click below to download. Not a member? No problem! Sign up is Free and easy peasy Lemon Squeezy!

Click Here to Download


3. Math About Me Activity:

Another favorite first day of math class activity is sticking to a classic all about me. I love all about me assignments, however many times students can get burnt out talking about their favorite thing to eat, listen to, read…etc. Assigning a Math about Me is a fun alternative to change the pace. When I first started teaching the only math about me assignments I could find were all very juvenile, and filled with fluff. I’m not a fan of fluff. I set out to create a Math about Me assignment that was appropriate for the upper grades, fun, and challenging, while still including problems that every student could answer. My Life in Numbers was the result of this effort. This is a really fun activity that requires students to work. Best part, the equations are fun and unique to each individual student. The majority of the time students don’t realize the effort they are exerting because they find the math fascinating. My Life in Numbers requires students to use multiplication, measurement, expanded form, counting, conversions, fractions and percentages…etc.

I decided to add another version of Math about Me to the mix. Again I wanted one that was appropriate for Upper Grades, that wasn’t “fluffy”. I also wanted to try and integrate different skills. The “In the Numbers” version is a lot of fun, and has a layout appropriate for older students. This one turned out to be so fun, and based on the rigor you assign to this product it can be appropriate amongst many grade levels. In the Numbers reviews concepts such as: area, perimeter, sq footage, scaling, base 10 blocks, ratio, percentage, fractions, math fluency <>, Pie Chart, time, mental math…etc.  Both are available for separate purchase, or you can save big with both in a BUNDLE. Read the next suggestion to see how I use these Math about Me pages in my classroom. 


4. FREE Math Pre-Assessment: 

This next resource is one near and dear to my heart. In one way I hope that I’m the first to introduce you to it, and in another I hope you’ve been utilizing it in your classroom for years. I began using this website when it was first known as Front Rowed, now Freckle. Funny name… Powerful tool. Freckle is the “first and only differentiation platform. It works with students at THEIR level. All teachers everywhere, cue happy tears. The user face is adorable and fun, yet appropriate for older students. Based on student’s performance you receive data telling you exactly where your student is, WHAT THEY NEED, and where they are going. Here’s the kicker… IT’S FREE. Math platform is available (K-9) I love this so much, this program became my student’s homework assignment throughout the year, allowing me to use my Daily Math & ELA Workbook & Student Planner Hybrid as a Bell Ringer instead of homework! One of the first things I have students complete that first week of math class is the pre-assessment/placement quiz on Freckle. Because students work at such a wide range of rates, as well as technology being limited I always had a Math about Me on hand for students to work on once they have finished or while they are waiting to get started. See above for more details. Watch the video below for more information on my all time favorite Freckle…. and I have A LOT of freckles… Couldn’t help myself.


Technically you should have enough here to cover the first 3 days of math class! I would start with the bulletin board activity for Day 1. The next class we would complete the pre-assessments and Math About Me pages, and Day 3 we would start things off with some struggle… and wonderful discussion. Don’t forget to set clear expectations, and go over procedures for math manipulatives. Focus on building trust and a relationship those first few days. The foundation you set will carry you throughout the rest of the school year. So make sure you’ve built upon a strong and steady one.

I hope these activities, ideas, and assessments brightened your day, and lightened your load. I hope that your jitters were replaced with excitement for the approaching days. Know that what you do is important. Good luck with the school year, be kind to yourself and your students. They need the best version of YOU. 


 Please, please, please take pictures! I want to see student examples, and the finished result, I especially want to hear about your experience with these projects.





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