What are math stretchers? These are math warm-ups that are facilitated by the teacher to encourage deeper thinking in a variety of math concepts. They are only meant to be few minutes in length and should help students to recognize patterns and relationships in math’s big ideas. They should always be created with the standards, students’ needs, and grade level in mind. They do not need to be complex and should first be completed by the students independently. Then it should be discussed and analyzed together as a class. This provides opportunities for purposeful math talk and use of math vocabulary.
This math stretcher is a fun way to get to know your students! Teachers select ahead of time what question he or she would like to pose and the four answer choices. This could easily be posed first thing in the morning when students arrive and are making their lunch choice. After all students have answered the question, together as a class decide what kind of graph to create. In the beginning, the teacher should provide think alouds and strong support, then help student progress to work more independently. It’s important to discuss what they observed, inferred, and ask open-ended questions. I have created quick graphs using sticky notes, tally marks, and so on.
This math stretcher is something that you would only want to implement occasionally. For homework the night before, you would have students record ways they (and their family) utilized math. They can write about it, draw it, use number sentences, or any other representation. When students arrive to school, just simply have them add to a chart their examples. Together at the start of math discuss. It really helps students see the value of math in our everyday lives.
Number of the Day
I have seen many teachers implement this over the years. It is meant to be a quick review to show students patterns and relationships among the numbers. It doesn’t need to be long nor elaborate. Simply provide students with a number and then they should figure out multiple ways to represent it. Their representations could involve base ten, pictures, operations, decimals, comparisons, so on. The further you explore your curriculum, the more representations students will create. Discuss together any patterns they have observed or relationships. Also, have students explain their reasoning.
This mini-activating strategy is good for introducing new concepts in math, or review a previously studied concept. Begin simply by recording a word (or words) that students think of when given a concept, such as fractions. Have students explain what they wrote and why the choose those words. As you progress through the unit, students can add more words to this chart.
On chart paper place a pattern followed by blank spaces for each child in the class. The pattern does not have to be whole numbers. Students take turns filling in the next step in the pattern, with their initials placed under it. After your class has community, you could have students discuss ideas with one another that they do not agree with and why. Only the student who made the error should correct it.
Again, all math stretchers are meant to be brief and as a warm-up. Typically I provide the stretcher first thing in the morning as part of their routine and then we come back to it and discuss it at the start of the math block. I do not use a math stretcher each day but I do try to do several a week and I rotate between them. Of course, you are more than welcome to assign a day of the week to each type.