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Favorite Activities for the First Day of Math in Middle School, Upper Elementary & High School

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 students’ needs during those first few days of math 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 display throughout the year.

You can have these FREEBIES delivered straight to your inbox or access through your FREE On Lemon Lane Membership!

If you find this post helpful I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Do you have a favorite activity that I failed to mention? Please share it below or connect with our community through our Private Facebook Group or on Instagram! 

Lastly, if you’ve been here long you know that along with high-quality freebies, I also love to offer high-discount BUNDLES.

So high TPT actually warns me about my discounts. 😅 If you want to try them all, I want you to be able to justify trying them all! There are few things that make me as happy as seeing my products in your classroom!

Click Here to Learn More

This Back-to-School Math BUNDLE includes:

  • X2 My Life in Numbers (digital and printable version)
  • Summed Up Summer (digital and printable version)
  • Grit and Growth Mindset Math Challenge # 7 (free download below)
  • X2 Math About Me Banner (digital and printable version)
  • My Life in Pictures (Best-Selling Back to School Activity)
  • Digital Me in a Bag
  • Collaborative Goal Setting Activity
  • Digital All About Me (PERFECT for Upper Grades!)
  • Who’s in My Corner (Best-Selling Would you Rather)
  • You’ve Been Schooled (School Community)
  • Get to Know the Teacher Game (***Most Important Test of the Year😜)
  • Find Someone Who (Free Download) Click Here for more info

Looking for a strictly MATH Bundle… Check out this pretty little thing.

Click Here to Learn More

This Back-to-School Math BUNDLE includes:

  • X2 My Life in Numbers (digital and printable version)
  • Summed Up Summer (digital and printable version)
  • Grit and Growth Mindset MATH Challenge #1 (digital and printable version)
  • Grit and Growth Mindset Math Challenge # 7 (free download below)
  • X2 Math About Me Banner (digital and printable version)

Let’s do this!

Before sharing the activities, I wanted to share a couple thoughts pertaining to that first day of math. Of all the classes, most likely 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 people have 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 will 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. If you 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 on 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 on 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 and has been updated to include both a DIGITAL and PRINTABLE version of the challenge!

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 on this challenge specifically.

***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. So 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 rundown 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!

3. Math About Me Activity

***Distance Learning| Virtual Math About Me Now Available!

Another favorite first day of math class activity is sticking to a classic, All About Me. I love these assignments; however, many times students can get burned out talking about their favorite thing to eat, listen to, read, etc.

Assigning a MATH All 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 and fun and challenging, while still including problems that every student could answer.

My Life in Numbers

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
  • percentages
  • etc.

***This best-selling activity has been updated to include a digital counterpart!***




In The Numbers

I decided to add another version of Math About Me to the mix. Again I wanted one that was appropriate for upper grades and steered clear of “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.

Both activities have been updated to include a digital version of the activity! These are the perfect addition to your interactive tool belt. The majority of the text can be edited through Google Slides and can easily be assigned through Google Classroom. Both products are adaptable and can also be printed and used as a hard copy in the traditional classroom setting.

I’ve added tutorials to add an animated GIF or even an avatar from Pixton for an extra measure of fun, as well as a few editable text features to allow you to better customize this assignment to your needs and preference.

Can’t make up your mind? Go for the BIG Math About Me Bundle and gain access to ALL of the above.

This Bundle includes both the ORIGINAL best seller: My Life in Numbers and its virtual counterpart as well as the original In the Numbers printable and the version that was adapted for Distance Learning/ DIGITAL version! 

This product allows you to save by bundling and leaves you prepared for no matter what the school year throws at you. Whether you are in a traditional, distance learning, hybrid, or paperless classroom setting, this download prepares you for a great first day of math class!

Click Here to Save BIG by purchasing the BIG Math About Me BUNDLE.

4. Summed Up Summer

I have been so excited to share this new activity with all of you! You know I don’t love “fluff”. However, I could see the need for a low-stress first day of math activity that is centered on numbers and creating connections with classmates. The idea for Summed Up Summer followed!

Summed Up Summer includes both a digital and printable version of the activity where students think of four math equations or math facts to represent their summer. Think of steps taken, hours slept, popsicles eaten, ounces drank, etc.

That’s the beauty of measurement and numbers–the possibilities are LIMITLESS. The equations or calculations your students pick will be completely differentiated to their own capabilities as it will be the students deciding what to solve or how to represent their summer!

This activity can be printed out and completed by hand, as a digital activity, or even a collaborative digital activity where students can comment on and explore each others’ slides! Like all my digital activities, Summed Up Summer can be edited and completed through Google Slides. It is EASY to use, and the end result is really beautiful! I know you’re gonna love it!

Click Here to Purchase


5. Math About Me Banner

My favorite type of activities often doubles as a type of hallway or bulletin board display. I also LOVE a good banner. In fact. one of the first products I ever created was an All About Me Banner!

I received feedback from a few teachers that they wanted a First Day of Math activity that their students could complete independently.

Unlike the other Math About Me pages (where you will likely need to work through some of the problems as a class… great discussion!), these pages are a bit more toned down in their rigor department. But still no fluff. 🙅‍♀️

The beauty of these banners (besides making a BEAUTIFUL classroom display…bulletin kit included) is that the bundle includes three differentiated ready-to-go banners ranging from elementary to upper-elementary, to middle school, and beyond! So you can be confident there is something for everyone.

If that weren’t enough…

ALL of the questions are EDITABLE!

Meaning you have the freedom to really customize these banners to your classroom’s individual and ever-changing needs!

The banners are editable through Google Slides and they function as a printable activity, digital activity, or a mix of both. Each version is available for individual purchase for $3, or you can save big and snag them all for only $1.99 more through the Bundle!

Click Here to Purchase


6. 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 interface is adorable and fun yet appropriate for older students. Based on students’ performance, you receive data telling you exactly where your students are, WHAT THEY NEED, and where they are going.

Here’s the kicker… IT’S FREE. The math platform is available K-12. I love it so much, this program became my students’ homework assignment throughout the year, which allowed me to use my Daily Math and ELA Workbook and 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 finished or while they were 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)!

Can’t Pick? Don’t! CLICK HERE to Save BIG with this BUNDLE


  1. Technically you should have enough here to cover the few days of math class! I would start with the bulletin board activity for Day 1.
  2. The next class we would complete the pre-assessments and Math About Me banners or page.
  3. Day 3 we would complete the Summed Up Summer as a way to get to know one another
  4. Day 4 we would start things off with some struggle…and wonderful discussion. #facilitatefailure

Don’t forget to set clear expectations and go over procedures for math manipulatives. Also, 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 and be kind to yourself and your students. They need the best version of YOU.

Like this post? Check out More First-Day-of-School Activities that are a MUST!


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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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April Fools’ Day is TOMORROW
I know many of you are coming off Spring Break, to lighten the load and add a little laughter to the classroom I quickly put together a fun and FREE activity/ joke to play on your class 💛 This impossible word search is in disguise as a #nationalpoetrymonth activity. Students will try and find words like stanza, verse, and rhyme... but won’t come up with a dime! 😉 They may however come up with words like tomfoolery, bogus, shenanigan, joke, buffoonery...etc 😂😂😂 Hope you and your class enjoy it, and this brightens your day! Tag me if you decide to use it, tags completely make my day! Comment below and I’ll DM you the link💛

Are you using my FREE Pi Day Activity like• @sunnyinclass

This fun FREEBIE works with ANY circular treat and is such a fun activity for students to explore and calculate Pi on Pi Day!

Comment below if you want me to DM you the opt in link 💛
Thank so much for the tag @sunnyinclass 💛 I can’t wait to hear what your 5th graders think! #l

#piday #pidayactivities #pidayatschool #pidayintheclassroom #mathteacher #math #mathactivities #mathactivity #mathactivitiesforkids #5thgrademath #5thgrade #5thgradecollaborate #ediblemath #edibleactivities #foodintheclassroom #havefunteaching #havefunlearning

Guys.... I’m not usually one to toot my own horn.... but 🎺 🎺. You HAVE to try this in your classroom. I racked my brain to come up with a pie recipe that didn’t require melting butter, a hand mixer, oven, or mess, that still incorporated math and fun. When plastic bags came to mind I couldn’t find anything that supported the idea of whipped cream in a bag but, in theory it should work.... IT. DOES. Every “piece” of that pie #punintended is made in a ziplock bag with ingredients that simply require measuring. Best part, it’s delicious. This is SURE to be a favorite and memorable activity with your class! 💛 be sure to tag me, I can’t wait to hear all about it!.

Link can be found in my story, or comment below for the link! Link includes the email opt-in for my March Freebie Bundle, that includes TWO no-prep Pi Day activities.
Comment below if you plan to try this activity with your class tomorrow or comment if you’d like me to DM you the link to the Pi Day FREEBIE opt in 👊

When an idea for an activity turns out EVEN better than you imagined?!
Add a little spice to your Stuck in a Snow Glove activity! Your Upper-Grade students will LOVE this activity!
If you already own this product head to your TPT account and re-download to access ALL the updates I made to this pretty little thing. Just when I thought I couldn’t love this one any more…
❄️In short it’s MAGICAL❄️
Head to my story or link in bio for more info…
How many days do you have left until winter break? Comment ⬇️

I love the idea that the best way we can remember September 11 and #neverforget is to remember the love, and unity that was felt September 12th, and to strive to live that way each day.
On September 12th we were one nation under God.
Seeking justice for all.
Love this beautiful depiction by @paigepayne_creations see her thoughts on September 12th below.
“ And on September 12th, we all came together. We were one. My family was living in Scotland when 9/11 happened. It was everywhere, all over the news. In school the day after, we had a long moment of silence in remembrance of those who were lost. We continued to have an annual moment of silence every year after that. It was incredible that even thousands and thousands of miles apart, we were mourning with those that mourned. We were one. At that time, we all displayed what we are capable of. Even in the face of incomprehensible tragedy, humans are capable of immense love. Capable of setting aside differences and coming together as one. As we remember and pay tribute to the thousands of lives the were lost that day, let us also strive to be more like how we were on September 12, 2001. Full of love, understanding, and compassion for each other. “

This painting is inspired by a beautiful photo taken by @masseya ❤️

#911 #911memorial #9eleven #911remembrance #thetwintowers #neverforget #neverforgotten #unity #love

Tag your #teachertribe and every #firstyearteacher below for this important reminder:
As you set up your classroom for the new school year, and start divvying out materials… Do no forget to set aside 2-4 new student kits.
Just like @adifferentiatedclass (shown in picture) I made sets using Gallon ziplocks.
If you are in a developing community with new housing I recommend a minimum of 4 bags 🙀
What to include:
🍋If you adhere the plates to the desk, have a segment of what you use in the pack.
🍋Welcome Treat (same one you’ve given to each student at the open house/back to school...etc.
🍋Whatever else you’ve set aside for students that begin on the first day of school.
📣📣📣There will likely come a day when without warning you will be notified you have a new student, and the student will start THAT DAY. Save yourself and your poor new student the stress of frantically trying to get everything set up, by preparing NOW.
Veteran teachers what else do you include in your new student kits?? Share in the comments below⬇️⬇️⬇️
📸: @adifferentiatedclass

How satisfying/ beautiful 😻 is this #classroomorganization tip by @the_organized_classroom
Use paint swatches as a visual to help students sort supplies! Keep this is mind as you set up your classroom for the school year!
What’s a brilliant #teacherhack you’ve tried or seen done with paint swatches??? Comment below 👇
I’ll leave mine in the comments!

Guys… I had a baby 🥰 Almost 10 months ago 😳 I STRUGGLE to consistently show up on this platform, but know how happy I am that you are here!
There are a lot of new faces around here so I thought we should take the time to get to know each other!
PLEASE comment below with what we have in common, or something we will never see eye to eye with 😜
A few things to know about me😬
🍋 My name is Tara, I’m the creator behind @teachingonlemonlane
🍋 Lemon was my maiden name and my love for all things lemon runs deep.
🍋 I’m a fresh lemonade connoisseur, and will not touch store bought/ from the tap.
🍋 My patronus is a wolf 🐺 #potterhead
🍋 A piece of my heart will always be in #5thgrade and New Orleans
🍋 I’m a novice flower gardener and LOVE to experiment with different blooms.
🍋 Ben and I will celebrate our 10 year this year and have 3 kiddos under 5 💀
🍋 Go Red Sox ⚾️
🍋#bucketlist item: New Zealand, Hobbiton, ride the #nevisswing 😳
🍋 Teaching item(s) I can’t live without…Binder clips😎 You should see what I can #macgyver with a couple clips… also, flair pens. #cliché 🤓
YOUR TURN: Tell me something about you in the comments!

To my dear teacher friends still in school, I've got a FREE Father’s Day project I think you will love! Those of you are home with kiddos of your own, consider this fun activity for your Father’s Day Celebration! This is a great #endofyearproject that doubles as a #fathersdaygift 💛🍋💛
This product is available in both a printable and digital version that’s completely editable through Google. If you have a student or child interested in Digital Design, this is a fun way to introduce and experiment with different design tools. Because there are so many different types of situations and circumstances when it comes to a father the words father or dad are never actually used. Which makes this the perfect card to give to any figure that has taken on that important role. Whomever that is, they should be celebrated!

Need #bulletinboardideas for March.... I’ve got you👊 like almost all of my Bulletin Board Kits, they center around student work and are made up of EASY TO CUT, Editable 🙊, ready to print and assemble slides!
Make sure to check out the Lucky Because Bulletin Board BUNDLE get ALL this for only $3.99☘️☘️☘️☘️ The Clover craft is the PERFECT craft for tomorrow!

If you’ve followed me for long you know I love all things March and Irish ☘️ it’s in my blood 🙃
My love of March shows in my resources, of all the months to have the most projects... March (of all the months???) is at the top of the list!
I just added this CELTIC KNOT inspired Lucky Clover Craft and it turned out so fun! Use either the DIGITAL version and insert pictures into the leaves that represent why you’re lucky, or pick from one of the 18 different top layer options to create a beautiful clover like the one shown above! If you do go this route make sure to check out the EDITABLE bulletin board kit to really put these beauties on display!
Do you love March? Why or why not? Drop a comment below 💛💛

Selection Sunday and PI Day falling on the same day... Somebody pinch me. Two of my very favorites because of the projects you can start in your classroom 😍 Take for instance my March Math Madness PBL
Think March Madness + Fantasy Basketball + Lots of Math + A sprinkle of ELA = Engagement & Excitement & Learning 💛🏀💛
Students are separated into the 4 divisions then work together to put together a new starting 5 from players in their division. #dreamteam Each round their individual players are awards point values for how they played. At the end of each round students will calculate their team’s total points and decide which dream team comes out victorious! There are some really great opportunities to see Math in action. There’s opportunity for measurement conversion, converting fractions to decimals, ordering decimals, ratios, mean-median-mode, adding and subtracting decimals, multiplying decimals...etc. This is quickly becoming another tried and true favorite in the classroom!
Also if you think your too late to the table, the only thing you are late for is brackets! The dream team activity can be started before any round! Second round would actually be ideal 👊🏻👊🏻 LOTS of FREEBIE extensions for this product that can stand on their own! Head to the website for more details!

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