21 Time-Saving Strategies, Activities, and Ideas All Math Teachers Should Know
A Post By: Anthony Persico
Some have been around for a while others have only emerged in recent years – but all have been selected from our archives for math teachers of all grade levels, including first year math teachers. Enjoy!
Useful Resources and Strategies
1. Free Math Worksheets — Topic-specific math worksheets are an essential tool for giving your students opportunities to practice and apply what they are learning in class. And while I do not recommend using worksheets as a primary teaching tool, they can be used effectively to supplement instruction and give students the extra practice that they need. Just be sure not to include time restrictions on completing worksheets or other math activities, as this practice can be damaging to students.
2. Puzzles, Riddles, and Brain Teasers — This collection of math puzzles and brain teasers (with answers) is a great ice-breaker activity (I share these with my students on the first day of school) or to use whenever you want your students to engage in creative and outside-of-the-box thinking. The activity comes as a printable PDF worksheet that is easy to share with your students.
3. The 10 Best Math Movies — Whether you want to give your students a break from testing, supplement your instruction, or share some well-earned Friday fun time, showing a math-themed movie in class can be an educational and enjoyable experience. This list shares the ten best school appropriate math movies. I always keep a copy of one or two of them in my desk drawer for a rainy day.
4. An Awesome Way to Teach Kids Fractions — Math teachers of all levels know that many students fail to gain a deep understanding of fractions and decimals. Creating fraction kits is an effective strategy for getting students to explore the idea of equivalent fractions and acquire a conceptual grasp of the topic, which is critical for being successful at higher levels of math. Once students master this topic, they are better equipped to perform more complex tasks like converting a decimal into a fraction.
5. Celebrate Pi Day — I’m always surprised by how many math teachers fail to celebrate Pi Day with their students, since March 14th is the only widely recognized mathematical holiday on the calendar. This collection of Pi Day resources includes a printable infographic and 5-minute Pi Day Fun Facts video that can be shared with students of all grade levels.
6. Inject Pop Culture Into Your Lesson Plans —You can easily boost student engagement by bringing elements of pop culture into your math activities. You can use my popular math activities involving The Avengers, Star Wars, and Nintendo’s Super Mario to channel student interest in movies and video games into meaningful learning experiences.
Boosting Student Engagement
7. Step Up Your Warm Up Activities — I’m a firm believer that the first five minutes of any math lesson are the most important. If you don’t engage and excite your students within the first few minutes, then you will be fighting an uphill battle for the remainder of the lesson. This collection of activities will help you to open your lessons with strong hooks that will keep your students on their toes and excited for whatever comes next. And it includes one of my favorite activities, Two Truths and One Lie, where students are presented with three mathematical statements (only two of which are true) and they have to identify which statement is a lie and justify why their choice is correct.
8. Use More Hands-On Activities — Who said that learning math is a spectator sport? I’m a huge fan of giving my students opportunities to explore mathematical concepts via hands-on activities. Why? Because hands-on activities are a highly effective strategy for developing a strong conceptual understanding of a math topic. Some ideas include using Cheez-Its to explore area and perimeter, using Starburst candies to explore probability, and building fraction kits to explore equivalent fractions.
9. How to Get Your Students Writing About Math — More and more math teachers are incorporating more writing activities into their lesson plans—a trend that is being driven by the use of daily math journals and highly engaging think-notice-wonder writing prompts which help students to organize their thinking, apply key vocabulary, and communicate mathematically.
10. Which One Doesn’t Belong? — If you are looking to make your math warm-ups more visual and thought-provoking, then starting your lessons with Which One Doesn’t Belong? (WODB) activities is a great strategy for instantly sparking creative and critical student thinking that will last for the entire lesson. If you haven’t tried WODB activities yet, give them a try and watch your student engagement skyrocket!
11. Take Advantage of Holidays — I always make a point to steer my students’ enthusiasm for major holidays into meaningful learning experiences by incorporating math in some way. Whether you are building an entire lesson (like this math history lesson on Famous African American Mathematicians during Black History Month) or are just looking for a fun warm-up up or cool down activity to celebrate Christmas, Halloween, or Valentine’s Day, injecting some holiday spirit into your math lessons is always a good idea.
12. Support a Growth Mindset in Your Classroom — Learning math with a growth mindset— the attitude that learning is a process where mistakes are celebrated as opportunities to grow—can change the way our students feel about the subject. With a growth mindset, I can’t becomes I can’t...yet, which blazes the trail to I can! You can support this mindset for learning in your classroom by sharing the right messages (like these inspiring growth mindset quotes), hanging a growth mindset poster in your classroom, and learning more about the supporting research.
13. Does Your Classroom Have the Essentials? — You know that, when it comes to learning, the environment plays a huge role. What does it take to make your classroom a warm and engaging learning environment? I like to start with organization (where my classroom teacher desk is always organized and packed with the essentials). Then I focus on decorating my classroom with colorful math posters and inspiring math quotes to create a supportive learning environment that is easy to set up and break down at the end of the year.
14. 21 Back to School Tips Every Teacher Needs — This collection of back-to-school tips will help you to reflect upon the previous school year to develop your weaknesses and build upon your strengths, make the most of your summer vacation, learn valuable lessons—like how to say ‘no’ more often—and how to use Twitter to engage in world class professional development from the comfort of your home.
15. Have a Plan for the End of the School Year — Savvy math teachers know that having a solid plan in place for getting through the final weeks of the school year is the key to preventing burnout and promoting personal well-being. I rely on using student-centered math projects at the end of the school year to keep my students engaged. This saved energy can be applied to packing up your classroom the right way, and entering your summer vacation feeling great.
16. Math Teacher Humor — It’s always a good idea to plan many opportunities to laugh during the school year. You can incorporate some math humor in your classroom by sharing funny math jokes and puns for kids, and you can lighten the mood in the teachers’ lounge or at your next faculty meeting by sharing some hysterical memes that every math teacher can relate to.
17. Attend a Conference — Every math teacher should attend a conference at least once every few years. Conferences are a great place to network with fellow educators, learn new things (most conferences give you the flexibility to pursue topics that you are most interested in), discover emerging trends in math education, collect some awesome goodies and gifts, and make new friends.
18. Use Twitter for Personalized PD — Twitter has become a place where teachers go to network, swap ideas, and interact with math education gurus like Jo Boaler. This guide to using Twitter for personalized professional development will walk you through setting up an account, using hashtags, connecting with influencers, and building your personal learning network.
19. Embrace More Technology — This post shares simple and approachable ways to make your lessons more tech-friendly, including how to implement a bring your own device policy, setting up an online classroom, flipping you instruction using video lessons, and how to use popular software like Minecraft for Education.
20. Utilize YouTube — YouTube is a treasure trove of high quality and 100% free K-12 math video lessons that you can use to supplement your instruction both inside and outside of the classroom. These video lessons are especially helpful for students who need to brush up on topics while away from the classroom and they are a great resource for supporting your visual learners.
21. Make Real World Connections — I often tell my students that math is everywhere in an effort to blur the lines between the classroom walls and the real world. This collection of interesting real-world applications of mathematics will allow you to empower your students with the knowledge of the amazing places their math skills can take them.
Of course the above 21 Time-Saving Strategies, Activities, and Ideas for math teachers just scratch the surface of all there is to learn about the art of teaching mathematics effectively. Subscribe to our mailing list here to get more free daily resources, lessons, and tips in your inbox every week.