Q: What are some good ideas for warm-up or starter problems?

A: Many math teachers like to be begin math class with a "warm-up" problem. This routine is a good way to alert students that math class has started (in the case of self-contained classes) and is also a good way to use transition time for students who move between classrooms.  The tricky part, I think, is using a warm-up task that is engaging to all learners but doesn't take up half the class time!  Over the years, I have tried out a variety of math warm-up problems. My current favorite is "Which one doesn't belong?":  (Huge shout out to C. Danielson and his book, "Which one doesn't belong?" for the inspiration here.)  To create one of these tasks, choose a topic or objective (e.g., common multiples) and choose four "choices" related to this topic (e.g., 12, 24           12, 48,        12, 18,       24, 36.)  Post the four choices and the question, "Which one doesn't belong?" and ask students to discuss with their partners before we share ideas as a whole class.  "Which one doesn't belong?" has become my "go-to" warm-up activity for several reasons.  First, it's accessible to all learners.  Every student can come up with a good reason for at least one of the four choices. Second, it encourages the kind of divergent thinking that is all too often de-emphasized in math class. Third, it has endless variations - it works for any content area!  I often create my own WODB tasks to focus on either the current material in class, common misconceptions that have arisen in my students' discussions, or as a way to review past units of study.  But there is no need to make your own; you can find many wonderful "pre-made examples of WODB tasks on the internet (e.g., http://wodb.ca/).

Nancy Anderson, EdD

Mathematics Teacher ~ Author ~ Consultant