Kickstart the Beginning of the Year: 8 Engaging Math Activities for Day One

June 10, 2024 No Comments

I remember my very first day in my classroom. I looked at the 27 nervous and excited little 3rd-grade faces and thought… “What will I do with these kids all day?”. It was a little overwhelming.

Over the years, I’ve refined my beginning of the year procedures and activities so they don’t feel overwhelming. Instead, they feel exciting, fresh, and new. There is something so special about a new school year.

There is always so much to do on that first day of school. You’re preoccupied with procedures, routines, and community building. Teaching math is probably the furthest thing from your mind. But it doesn’t have to be! Help your students warm up their math brains with these beginning of the year math activities. This post covers eight easy math activities for the first day of school.

8 beginning of the year math activities to use for the first day of school

Beginning of the Year Activity: Read a Picture Book

Whether you are teaching kindergarten or 5th grade, picture books are a great way to start the year. I’m sure you have a list of books you love reading that first week, but why not add some math picture books? Here are some ideas…

I’m Trying to Love Math by Bethany Barton

This is a great book to start the year because it isn’t a how-to math book; instead, it is a math mindset book. If you have any reluctant mathematicians in your classroom, they will appreciate the perspective of this story.  It is a great way to encourage your students as they start a new year.

Read picture books as a beginning of the year math activity.

Math Curse by Jon Scieszka

This is just a fun one! It will also encourage your students to look for the math around them.

The School of Numbers: Learn About Mathematics with 40 Simple Lessons by Emily Hawkins

This book is so fun. While you won’t be able to (or want to) read the entire book on the first day, you can read the beginning and then go back throughout the year to read the lessons throughout the books when they correlate with what you are teaching. Your students will be so excited whenever they see you with the book throughout the year. Start building that anticipation on the very first day!

There are so many options for picture books at the beginning of the year. Try reading a math picture book on the first day to prepare your mathematicians for a fun year.

Beginning of the Year Activity: Logic Puzzles

Building your students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills is never too early. Start on the very first day with these differentiated, free logic puzzles. 

These puzzles include four differentiated versions, so you can help students build their critical thinking skills over time. They immediately allow you to see your students’ problem-solving skills and mentally note how your new students attack math challenges. That’s a win at the beginning of the year.

Logic puzzles are a great beginning of the year math activity.

Beginning of the Year Activity: Math About Me

Learn about your students on the very first day through math! There are a variety of math about me activities out there, but they don’t have to be complicated. Here are some ideas to get you going…

  • Have students come up with ten facts about themselves using numbers. For example, I am eleven years old. I have two dogs at home.
  • Have students come up with ten facts about them, then have them create equations with their numbers for the answer. For example, I am fifty-five, divided by five years old.

Grab this back-to-school activity with a color-by-number all-about-me math activity perfect for upper grades.

Use a math about me activity at the beginning of the year.

Invite your students to get to know each other through math! It’s a perfect activity for the first day of school!

Beginning of the Year Activity: Estimation Stations

Estimation stations aren’t just for little kids! They can also be a fun activity for upper-grade students. Here are some ideas for making these work for bigger kids.

  • Use more significant numbers of items.
  • Use different-shaped holding containers.
  • Use two differently shaped containers with the same type of item and ask students to compare them to see which has more.
  • Have students estimate the length or weight of objects
  • Have students estimate the perimeter of an object
  • Have students estimate the amount of an item using measuring cups

Estimation stations on the first day are a fun way to get your students out of their seats and thinking mathematically. This activity also provides opportunities for your students to have some meaningful conversations and start to collaborate with their new classmates.

Beginning of the Year Activity: Math CBN Review

Are you looking to help your students dust off those summer cobwebs and start reviewing the math they learned last year before you jump into new content? Then, these color-by-number reviews are just what you need.

Each color-by-number includes six problem-solving and coloring pages. Each page covers a standard domain: place value, operations, algebraic thinking, fractions, measurement, and geometry. The pages are beach-themed, a perfect way to help students retain some of those summer vibes.

These beginning of the year activities are a great way to get students to review math skills while completing an engaging activity independently. Finding something that allows students to work independently is hard those first few days, but these color-by-numbers will work perfectly!

Use a color by number as a fun way to review old math skills at the beginning of the year.

Be sure to grab the correct version. For example, if you teach 5th grade, you want to grab the 4th grade version so students can review those skills. Take a closer look at these fun and engaging activities, perfect for the first week of school.

Review 5th Grade Math Skills

Review 4th Grade Math Skills

Review 3rd Grade Math Skills

Beginning of the Year Activity: Math Tool Scavenger Hunt

Do you have math tools or manipulatives you will be using this year? To help your students become acquainted with the tools they will use throughout the year, send them on a scavenger hunt. 

This is a great way to get students up and moving. It also allows you to go over some expectations around using classroom materials and helps students learn more about where items are located in the classroom. 

A scavenger hunt is an engaging way for students to think about math while they learn more about their new classroom.

A math tools scavenger hunt is an interactive beginning of the year activity.

Beginning of the Year Activity: Goal Setting

Start the year off by setting new math goals. I love to refer to my students as mathematicians because I want them to believe that is what they are, no matter their mathematical background or ability levels. Here are some questions for your new mathematicians to help get their goal-setting wheels rolling.

  • What are your strengths as a mathematician?
  • What do you find challenging as a mathematician?
  • What are you excited to learn about this year as a mathematician?
  • How do you find yourself using math outside of school?
  • What are some mathematical things you would like to be able to do?

Use these questions to start a dialogue about setting math goals with your students. While you may not be able to conference or talk with each student about their goals that first week, getting students thinking about them immediately helps them start the year off on a positive note.

Beginning of the Year Activity: Math Pictures

Combine math and art to pique your students’ interest on day one! These no-prep math activities are perfect for use throughout the school year and are just what you need at the beginning of the year.

Here is how a math picture works… Provide students with a blank sheet of paper and the equation page. Students then solve the equations and draw an image based on their answers. For example, the equation might say to draw 3 x 4 trees. Students will solve that equation and draw 12 trees. While each student’s picture will have the same number of items, their pictures will all look unique. Their illustrations make for a perfect classroom bulletin board display.

Math pictures are a great beginning of the year activity.

Math pictures are available in decimal operations and multiplication and division options. These activities are an engaging and fun way to use math on the first school day.

July Math Pictures

August Math Pictures

Septemeber Math Pictures

Don’t let your beginning of the year plans overwhelm you; plug one (or more) of these activities into your lesson plans. These activities will help to create a math culture in your classroom from day one. Jumpstart using math in your classroom by using one of these activities on the first day of school, and have a great year!

Amanda Stitt

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I’m a mom, military spouse, and teacher trying to find the elusive balance of everything going on in life. I am passionate about helping teachers feel supported and equipped to meet the needs of their unique learners. Thanks for stopping by and let’s start teaching together! Read More

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