Math Warm Ups to Start Your Math Block!

July 26, 2016

I wanted to share some of my favorite math warm ups that I use to start my math workshop block!


My math block has always been in the afternoon and generally right after lunch which can be a bit of a transition nightmare. So instead of jumping right into our skill of the day, I always start our math block with a warm up.


I tell my first graders we need to get our brains ready for math so this gives us a good 5 minutes to “prepare” for the lesson. I switch up the type of warm up we do daily to keep it fresh and interesting. Also, depending on the class’ mood, energy level, etc. we may need to be up and moving around to get the jitters out or we may need to turn out the lights and have a quiet drill-type of warm up.


So here are my 5 FAVORITE types of math warm ups:


[1] Number Talks
Number talks are such an amazing way to get students thinking abstractly about numbers and their relationships! We begin the year with students identifying numbers displayed different ways in 10 frames. The most important part of a number talk is to let the students TALK. This is when I train them to explain their thinking with guiding questions. I don’t focus on whether they are right or wrong immediately. Through discussion, they generally find this out on their own. My goal is to act as the facilitator in this talk.


Some ideas for number talks:
dot cards
10/20 frames
in and out boxes
missing addend problems
word problems
The Brown Bag Teacher write an amazing post all about number talks that I highly recommend taking the time to read:


[2] Let’s Move Games!
Every once in a while my students will come in from recess very…. lethargic…
I can tell that if I were to try and have a number talk, half my kids would be zoning out and not paying attention. So instead, I get them up and moving! These 5 games are quick and we play them all year long!


Students stand in a circle and practice counting. Each game has a rule for buzz. For instance, the buzz may be multiples of 5. So each student goes around saying a number, but if their turn is a multiple of 5 they must say BUZZ instead! If they do this correctly, the person after them must sit down. If a student messes up or doesn’t know the next number, they sit down. The last person standing wins!
{1, 2, 3, 4, BUZZ, 6, 7, 8, 9, BUZZ}
You can do this while skip counting as well!


Make 11:
This is a simple partner game where students face one another with their hands behind their back. On the count of 3, they throw out any combination of their fingers and together, with their partner, they try to make 11. They do this over and over for 5 minutes seeing how many times they can do it.


Addition and Subtraction flash cards are perfect for this Kagan game. Students walk around the room and find a partner. They will each quiz one another and check the answer. Once they have both done the quizzing they trade flash cards and find another partner. We play this for 5 minutes or until everyone has paired up with one another.


Mix & Match:
This is an easy game where each student gets their own card. When I say GO! students will mix around the room until each student has found their partner. You can find many mix and match cards or just write your own on index cards. Once all partners are found, I gather all the cards, shuffle, and play again!


  • 2D/3D shapes and their properties – One card will say 3 sides, 3 corners and they have to find the person who has a triangle.
  • Place Value – one card will say 5 tens and 7 ones and they find the person with 57.
  • Addition and Subtraction – one card will have an equation and they find the person with the sum or difference



I Have, Who Has:
In this game each student gets a card that looks something like this:
I have my students sit in their desks and when it is their turn they must stand up and read their card. This game is great because EVERY student must check their card to see if they have the correct answer.


{To get the cards above, you can click HERE. I have them for 6 different math skills}


[3] H.O.T. Questions
 Later in the year, I like to challenge my students during a warm up with a higher order thinking task.
Some of these I will do whole group and I will listen (and guide) their discussions the same way I do in a number talk. As my students become more comfortable with these types of questions I will pair them up and give them a task to complete me together.



Two years ago I compiled all the HOT questions I had been using by math standard.
You can see more about those by clicking the picture above!


Generally once a skill has been taught already, I will use a fix-it card as a warm up for review!


These are some examples for nonstandard measurement:
These are great to throw under the projector and again, have students EXPLAIN their thinking and not only identify what is wrong, but also how they could fix it. Listening to their explanations really lets me see what they have learned and if they need to review certain skills.


You can find fix it cards for every math subject HERE!


Last, but certainly not least, are fluency drills! Let’s face it, by the end of first grade there are certain facts that I want my students to KNOW and know quickly for that matter. Doubles facts, addition and subtraction within 20, and adding tens are just some of those skills.
I don’t put too much emphasis on timed fact drills, but a warm up is the perfect time to do it. Especially since we don’t do it that often, my students get excited when they get to sit and race the clock to see how many facts they can solve in a minute or two.
I always offer incentives for this and once a student completes more correctly than their last try, they earn something special – reward ticket, sticker, new pencil, skittle, etc.


 I find that these math warm ups are most beneficial when they are SHORT, purposeful, and ever-changing! These are not supposed to take too much time out of your math block, but they are supposed to be purposeful and intentional.


I always have a goal when completing a math warm up.
Some of my goals have been:
  • – to review a previously taught skill
  • – to give my students more practice explaining their thinking
  • – to get my students up and moving while learning
  • – to calm my students down while learning
  • – to have my students practice math facts
  • – to practice thinking critically
and many more!


Lastly, my students genuinely enjoy these warm ups when they change often. They don’t get sick of them easily and often they will ask to play a specific one that they’ve been missing!


Looking for more standards-based math games that will engage your learners and save you lots of time?!

Join hundreds of primary teachers over in the SJT Math Club:


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So there you have it, those are 5 of my FAVORITE types of math warm ups!
Do you incorporate any of these into your math block?

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  • Thank you for sharing! So excited to use these ideas in my classroom! Also, how cool that you were on Wheel of Fortune! Enjoy your summer!