Warm-up games for maths lessons

Updated June 13, 2017

Beginning each maths lesson with a simple and fun activity will get your class thinking and warm up their brains. The activity can be mental, oral or even physical. It doesn’t need to be related to the topic you are covering in your main lesson. It can be used to revise and revist previous work and to reinforce mathematical concepts such as number sequencing and multiplication, for example.

Times table bingo

This simple activity requires no preparation and only basic resources. Give each child a whiteboard and pen. Have them write down between six to ten numbers, depending on the age and ability of your class. Call out times tables questions. Any child with the answer on their whiteboard crosses that number off. For example, if you call out 5 x 10, anyone who has written down the number fifty on their whiteboard will cross that number out. The first pupil to cross out all their numbers is the winner. This game can be differentiated according to the ability of the class and can also be adapted for other topics such as addition, subtraction, division and even fractions.

Number marching

Learning the sequence of numbers is a basic yet vital skill that children need to secure in order to develop competency in other mathematical concepts. Making learning number sequences fun will help engage children, particularly younger students. Try starting a lesson by marching around the classroom, or even marching outside. While children march they recite numbers, counting in ones, twos, fives or tens. Try marching backwards, counting backwards as you go.

Number ball

Write questions on the surface of a bouncy ball – either in marker pen or on sticky labels that can easily be removed. Have children sit in a circle. Roll the ball to a student. When the ball reaches them they must answer the question facing them. They then roll the ball on to another student. This activity can be adapted to cover any topic you feel needs reinforcing, be it multiplication, addition, division or subtraction. If you have no time to write the questions on the ball, then simply call out a question as you roll the ball. This game can also be played in pairs, with children throwing or rolling the ball or a beanbag to a partner.

Stand up, sit down

Have your class sit on the floor. Give each child a card with a number written on it. Then call out "stand up if you are..." and add a qualifier, for example “4 less than 10”. In this example, the child with the number six would stand up. Once everyone is standing up, change the instruction to “sit down if you are...” This activity can be adapted according to the ability of the class.

Fizz buzz

This is another activity that requires no preparation and you won’t need any resources at all. Choose two different numbers, for example three and five. Count round the class. Students must say “fizz” instead of a number if their number is a multiple of three, and “buzz” if their number is a multiple of five. If their number is a multiple of three and five, then they must say “fizz buzz”. If they say the number instead, they are out.

Counting friends

Children work in pairs or small groups. They count in sequences, either in ones, twos, fives or tens, taking turns to say the numbers. You can make this more difficult by changing the start number, for example one group may count in twos and start at zero while another group counts in twos but starts at three, so their next number would be five and then seven and so on. Count backwards as well.

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About the Author

Based in Hampsire in the south of England, Alison Williams has been writing since 1990. Her work has appeared in local magazines such as "Hampshire Today" and "Hampshire the County Magazine." Williams is qualified in newspaper journalism and has a Bachelor of Arts in English language and literature from the Open University. She has recently published her first novel "The Black Hours" and has a master's in creative writing.