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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Five Fabulous and Free Warm Up Activities for Virtual Math Lessons K-6

I have written in the past about how we structure math class and today I want to share with you the first in a series of posts about how we structure virtual math classes.  Over the past 6 months, we have played around with the structure of our virtual lessons and have landed on a digital version of what we do in class.  First thing is first and that is the warm-up!

Why a Warm Up

I like doing a warm up in a virtual math lesson for some of the same reasons I like doing them in person.  It is a great way to get everyone excited about learning math, it gives us a chance to review important concepts, and it is a perfect opportunity to talk about mathematical mindset.  It can be a chance to do a whole group number talk, engage kids in a low floor high ceiling task or introduce a game that will be part of our math menu or choice board later.  It is also a great way to honor virtual learners who arrive for class on time by having something ready for them to get started on. 

How Long?

Virtual math classes seem to vary in time more than traditional ones.  In general they tend to be shorter so I try to keep the warm up portion to 10 minutes or less.

Best Warm Up Activities? 

Here are the activities I have been able to do live over Zoom or Google Hangouts that my kids have loved the most.  


This has been the overall favorite of my students during distance learning.  You download the powerpoint presentation and hit present.  The slides include a visual model and clues to help them narrow down their estimation.  They practice important skills related to estimation as well as other grade level appropriate vocabulary as the clues help them narrow down their estimation.  They also fit nicely into a 10 minute or less time span and get kids excited to show up on time. 

Which One Doesn't Belong

The premise is simple but the results are amazing.  Four images put together and you think about which one doesn't belong.  The best part of this type of activity is that there is really not a wrong answer and there are many right answers.  It is also good practice at looking at things from different perspectives.  By the time we are done with one of these my students have usually found reasons why each number, shape or picture in the set does not belong. 

3 Act Math 

My students had actually already done most of these when we switched to distance learning.  They continued to be super popular to do from home, but you need to be pretty good at using the share screen feature to make it successful which by now many teachers are.  These start by seeing a picture or video clip and asking kids what they notice followed by an estimation and thinking about what other information would be useful.  Additional information is provided in act 2 which leads to a narrowed down estimate or an exact calculation.  Act 3 reveals the answer by showing the rest of the video clip or picture.  

Number Talks

Starting a virtual math lesson with a whole group number talk is a great way to build flexibility and fluency with calculation.  It is a great time to review important concepts and help kids work on how to listen and share.  The pair-share part of number talks kind of gets lost online so I keep our number talks even shorter than usual, typically no more than 3 problems.  That seems to be enough for kids to try out other classmates' strategies without taking more than 10 minutes.  If you have a problem string that is longer than that, it will usually work over 2 days better than trying to get it all in at once.

Mindset Videos

Official research and my own classroom research has shown me how important math mindset is and when you are in a virtual world I would argue that it is even more important than ever.  These videos are short, sweet a bit corney and pretty engaging for kids.  A quick video and a group chat about it followed by the teacher pointing out when she sees kids demonstrating the desirable mindset qualities found in the video during the main lesson that day is a great way to reinforce the importance of a positive mindset and help kids believe they can learn anything. 

Stay tuned for 3 more posts in this series about structuring virtual math classes for distance learning! Next up is main lesson followed by math menu or math choice boards then one final post that summarizes the structure of an online math class! 

Something to help with virtual teaching! 

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