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 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!
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!
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!
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 activit…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 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:
- expanded form
***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:
- sq footage
- base 10 blocks
- math fluency <>=
- pie chart
- mental math
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!
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 connection 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!
5. Math About Me Banner
My favorite type of activities often double 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! You can actually download a free version of that All About Me Banner here.
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!
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)!
- 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.
- The next class we would complete the pre-assessments and Math About Me banners or page.
- Day 3 we would complete the Summed Up Summer as a way to get to know one another
- 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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