Back to School Math Activities to Get to Know Your Mathematicians



back to school math ideas

Most back to school getting to know you activities revolve around student interests and hobbies, their families and cultures, and what books they read over the summer. While those activities are a great way to know all about your new bunch of students, make sure you set time aside to get to know your new batch of students as mathematicians.

The math activities that I complete with my students during the first week of school are specifically designed to help me get to know my students as mathematicians. This is a term that I use with my students all year long. Just like I call students readers and writers during reading and writing workshop, I call them mathematicians during math. This sets the tone that all students are mathematicians and that during math time we work hard as mathematicians.

The following back to school math activities are a great way to get students knee deep in math activities and critical thinking right from day one. Not only will your students begin the year already loving all things math, but you will gain valuable insight into how your students feel about math, face challenging problem solving tasks, and work and discuss mathematics with their peers.

These activities will take you through the first week of school and longer if you choose to go more in depth with each lesson idea. Grab FREE math problem solving activities and other math goodies at the bottom of this post.


Let's Talk Math



back to school math discussion starters


What better way to get to know your new students' thoughts and feelings about math than by talking about all things math! I love to use math discussion starter cards to pose questions about math to get my kids talking about their math pasts, how they feel about problem solving, and working with partners during math class. The responses that students share offer valuable information about them as math students.

Following a class discussion on math, I have students work independently to complete a math inventory. This provides students with the chance to let me know how they feel about math in a private setting. I collect these and keep them in my files. I love to repeat this activity midyear to see if their thought about math have changed.

Once we have finished up discussing math and the inventories, I have students complete attainable math goals that they would like to achieve. I do use the SMART goal setting method which I have found to be a great way to help students set goals, meet them, and then set new goals again.


We are Mathematicians



math inventory for back to school



Get your students use to hearing you refer to them as mathematicians with this simple, yet super engaging activity. To get started, create an anchor chart together with your students about what good mathematicians do. Encourage students to share strategies and tools that are needed when solving math problems. Showcase your anchor chart in your classroom and make copies of your list for students to keep in their math notebooks or folders.

Once your list is created, have students create a colorful illustration of themselves as mathematicians. Where would they be working? What tools would they use? Would they be alone? Have your students label their illustrations to show all the things that they are using.

I especially love this activity because the work that students complete look adorable hanging up on a bulletin board or on the classroom door! They are always a big hit for Meet the Teacher Night.


Read a Math Picture Book (or two)

back to school math picture book activities


Every day is perfect to read a book, but those first two weeks of school are often filled with amazing picture books! Why not take the time to read some amazing math centered picture books to engage students in meaningful discourse about problem solving, persevering, and making mistakes. Here are three math picture books that I make sure to read during the first few weeks of school.



Growth Mindset

growth mindset in the math classroom


If you teach math, you cannot start the school year without diving into the concept of growth mindset with your students. I love displaying growth mindset quotes and alphabet charts in my classroom and using our morning meeting time to discuss the concept of growth mindset to encourage students to persevere and show grit especially when faced with challenging math activities.

But over the years, I have found that much more is needed than just hanging up a positive quote.

By teaching formal lessons, reading picture books, and watching videos about growth mindset students will understand the concept of growth mindset much better and quickly begin to put some of the growth mindset strategies that I have taught them into play. That is why I set aside time during the first week of school to begin my growth mindset lessons. These can easily be weaved into your the first ten minutes of your beginning of the year math lessons.


Problem Solving

math back to school digital problem solving activities



I love presenting students with problem solving tasks during the first week of school. While I do believe that understanding what basic math skills students have is important, I love to see how they work through more challenging tasks.

Any multiple step problem solving task that uses skills from the previous year will work as an informal assessment of students' abilities. Give students one class period to complete it,the process is more important than the final product. As they work observe their behaviors and dialogue with students, asking them questions about the steps and strategies that they are using to solve the problem

Collect student work and keep them as a benchmark activity even if students are not done. This is a great starting point that future assessments can be compared to as the year progresses. It also shows you what students can complete during one class period.


Play a Math Game

math back to school games for digital classrooms or distance learning


There is no better way to get kids loving math than by playing some hands on math games. I love using math games in the classroom to help students engage in meaningful discourse about math and share their mathematical thinking with a peer. Playing math games also holds students accountable for their work and focused at the task at hand.

This FREE math game will give you some valuable insight into how your students approach both skill questions and problem solving questions. If you want more in depth games or school themed activities, these are my go to games to play with students during the first few weeks of school:



Back to school season is all about getting to know your new batch of students! Make sure you take the time to know them as mathematicians, too. It will not only show students how much you value math, but allow students to develop a positive relationship with mathematics right from day one.


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1 comment

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