There are so many reasons that I love using warm-ups in math class. I have my students work quietly and independently on them, so I can take attendance, catch up with kids who have been absent, handle any issues that pop up between periods, and check in with individual students as needed.
If there is ever a rare day that none of that is needed, I like to enjoy a moment of quiet as we transition into the next class period.
I've collected a set of ideas, resources, and perspectives on warm-ups from a few math teachers who cover a wide range from 6th grade to Calculus.
If you are not convinced to try warm-ups, check out Mrs. E's blog post: "Bellwork Keeps Me Sane."
Here are 8 totally different ways that you can kick off your math period. Try a combination of a few of these ideas to get a well-rounded, but consistent warm-up routine.
1. Number of the Day / Function of the Day
Students write 8 true facts about this function (I don’t even collect it; we discuss their responses). For example, the function today for my Algebra IB students was x-2y=4. Students gave me the linear form, the x & y intercepts, the slope, the equivalent equation in slope-intercept form, equivalent equations using scalars, a perpendicular line, a parallel line, and a random point on the line in function notation.
Two weeks ago they couldn’t even tell me the standard form of a linear equation. All of these concepts taught in a previous math class have been refreshed solely from this warm-up routine and debriefing of student responses. Don’t tell them, but the functions are going to get progressively more complex." - Algebra Simplified
2. "Writing in Math" Question Prompts
This is one of my own favorite strategies. When I use writing prompts as math warm-ups, I have students write out their answers in complete sentences.
I have a full set of 100 critical thinking question prompts for writing in math.
Click here to download a set of 10 for free.
3. Problem of the Day/Week
A really fun way to do a "problem of the day" is to incorporate a challenge that is rigorous, but accessible to everyone.
Picture equations offer this, plus they can get some great math talk going if you let students work in pairs.
For seasonal algebra picture puzzles, try these sets:
- Halloween Equations
- Thanksgiving Equations
- Christmas Equations
- Valentine Equations
They're sorted into different levels of difficulty, so you can differentiate, or level up as you use one per day leading up to a holiday.
The most challenging ones require substitution or the transitive property (or some super deep thinking if your students have not learned those yet), so they're a fun task for any age.
Stop and take a quick math break -- can you solve the fall-themed ones in this picture??
4. Video Warm-Ups
Tyra from Algebra and Beyond came up with a great new warm-up style. She has her students watch a short YouTube video BEFORE class, and then assesses with a warm-up based on the video.
This structure is great because the kids are already introduced to the new content. They can jump right in to the day's material, and you know that they actually watched the video. This is great for improving pacing.
Try this unique format for free - Calculus Unit 2 Video Warm-Ups
5. Test Prep
Take your sample version of the standardized test for your state and cover one question per day. You can project one question where everyone can see it, or you can cut and print the question on a half sheet of paper.
If you teach high school, mix in questions from sample ACT and SAT tests to get your students exposed to a variety of test prep question formats throughout the year.
6. Review of Prior Knowledge
Joan Kessler has some pretty fun review-style warm-ups that she uses in her Calculus classes.
She is offering the whole year's worth at a really great price! I can't imagine how much time this would save me if I was teaching Calculus.
I know the students would love the pictures and questions that she uses to make it a little more fun.
Secondary Math Solutions has a set of exit tickets that are also review-based.
These can be used as warm-ups the day after the content is covered. This is a great way to keep students constantly reviewing the older content as each new lesson is added on.
This set is available for purchase here. It would be a great addition to an Algebra 1 or Algebra 2 classroom.
7. Introduction to New Content
Sometimes, I like to introduce a new property or theorem with a quick discovery-based warm-up.
Introducing the new material right in the warm-up is a great way to kick off a lesson.
There are a few examples of this type of activity in my Hands-On Geometry blog post
8. Joke / Riddle
One of my favorites was "what do you call friends that like math"? Algebros!! And from there we would go straight into checking the homework."