Math warm up

5 Ways to Use Math Warm Ups (Virtual + In Person)

Build students’ critical thinking & math reasoning skills through using math warm ups!

I have been using a math warm ups with my 3rd-5th graders for years and they freaking love it. I mix in some fun pictures and some “math” ones. But the secret, it doesn’t really matter what the four choices are because my goal with math warm ups isn’t to teach them about factors or prime numbers, but instead my goal is to build their math reasoning muscles.


This is part of a pack of 30 slides designed for 3rd-5th graders on my TPT Shop. Grab them here.

Why Math Warm Ups & Routines?

Math routines or also knowns as (daily warm ups, do now, bell ringer) help students build critical math skills. Some of my favorite math routines are those that build number sense. Studies show that the difference between students with strong number sense out preform their peers without a strong number sense understanding.

Math warm ups or daily routines also build students reasoning skills. In math, like literacy, we want students to make claims, provide evidence to support their answers and justifications that are convincing. The Math Practice standards from the Common Core State Standards call for this type of thinking in our math students.

Lastly, math routines are open ended so they leave room for students to be creative, critical thinkers. This type of thinking is MATH THINKING! Mathematicians are creative. They develop solutions to problems that appear unsolvable. It is our job, as elementary and middle school math teachers to lay the foundation for our students to be creative and flexible in their math thinking.

What Math Warm Up Routines Can I Use?

I personally, love “Today’s Number”. I’m currently teaching 5th grade so I altered it a bit to make it “Today’s Decimal” or “Decimal of the Day”. I talk about how I use that math warm up right… here! Check it out.

I also use “Which One Doesn’t Belong”. I LOVE this routine. It’s fun, feels like a game and has a great impact on students’ learning. You can grab my November packs here. There are 30 slides including 10 image slides and 20 “math” slides. PLUS a blank template to make your own.

Can I use Math Warm Ups Virtually?

It is my firm belief that my virtual classroom must mirror my “in person” classroom. That being said, math routines are high effective in my classroom so I know I need to incorporate them into my virtual class.


Here is my laptop screen with a student’s work displayed as they work on this math warm up!

yes! yep! yasssss….

There are ENDLESS tech tools to make this happen. And let’s be real, the amount of tech tools is OVERWHELMING. However, I have found 3 that are super help for math routines.

#1- Nearpod for Virtual Math Warm Ups!

You can simply turn any set of google slides into interactive, editable slides with a Chrome Extension. My favorite way to use Which One Doesn’t Belong (or any math routine) is through Nearpod. I simply copy the slide I want students to use that day into a google slide deck. Then, using the Nearpod extension “convert to Draw it slide”. That makes the slide editable with their pen tool.

Nearpod also offers the ability to monitor students work on teacher dashboard. I can share the students’ work so others can see it, helping me facilitate student- led discussions of sharing thinking and strategies virtually.

#2. Jamboard is another way.

Jamboard is from the Google Suite and very simple to use. Simply open up a Jamboard from the “Waffle” in the top right corner of your google screen. (If you don’t see it go to the bottom and click see more- there you’ll find it). Then, create enough Jamboard slides for each student and make the background image the routine slide. (All of my Which One Doesn’t Belong slides are saved as .jpeg so you can simply copy and paste the images!)


Just click on the image and drop it into a Jamboard. It’s literally that simple.

Jamboard is super simple and easy for students to use. However, a downfall is they can edit on each others’ slides as they have access to all the slides on the Jamboard. Be sure to have conversations about virtual integrity and respect before using Jamboard

#3. Select and Sequence to Debrief

BOTH of these tools allow the teacher to monitor students’ thinking and solving methods in order to select and sequence their work for a share and discussion.


Here on Nearpod I can monitor students’ work.

I end every math warm up or routine with a student-led debrief. To prepare for this student-led debrief I monitor students work and select who I would want to share. I select these “shares” in many ways… considering the learning target, the level of the students in the room, the right next step in their mathematical thinking, CCSS mathematical practices, etc.

Then, I sequence those shares in a way that will lead to a learning target or essential understanding. This is my BEST kept secret in HOW I LEAD a student-led discussion. Trickery, but it creates investment and leads toward conceptual understanding.

Below is a quick video of how I monitor students’ work and then “line them up” to be ready to share their thinking with the class.

This is an example of how I select and sequence students to share during a Math Warm Up. These shares are quick and the total routine maybe takes 15 minutes!

#4. Lesson Structure


Who doesn’t want to talk about Pumpkin Pie & holiday food!?

I’m always trying to build my students capacity to explain their thinking while also building my classroom community. I know that students love to TALK. In fact, in most classrooms I go into students are talking to themselves.

How many auditory learners do you have in your classroom?

I design my lessons to get students talking. So, I structure my math routines to include as much discussion as possible.

  • First… Monitor students’ solving. As I talked about above this gives me the window into their brain, into understanding their math thinking. I watch them solve, asking probing questions, and observe.
  • Next… Select and sequence. I select students to share and sequence them in a way that will allow their shares to drive our discussion toward deeper math understanding.
  • Then… Discussion. Students discuss what they did and why they did it. This builds their ability to make a claim, justify their response, and support their answers with evidence. The Which One Doesn’t Belong routine is PERFECT for this. Students LOVE discussing why they picked one or the other and giving evidence feels easy. All the while, they are building their muscles in mathematical thinking!
  • Finally… Reflection. “How has your thinking changed based on what you heard from your peers?” “Maybe it hasn’t changed? How come?” “Are you looking at the 4 choices differently now?” I give students prompts to consider. Sometimes we respond to a prompt in the chat on our virtual classroom or jot it on a Post It note in class.

Grab your own copy of these easy to use Math Warm Ups!

I have taken the work off your plate and created READY to USE, NO PREP Math Routines for your classroom! Now that you’re armed with the how to use these routines, you just need the goods.

So, to get you started I’ve created this FREE set of “Which One Doesn’t Belong” Math Warm Ups to use with your students today.

Math Warm Up just for you friend!

Rainbow “Which One Doesn’t Belong?” to use today!

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    When you're ready, if you need MORE Math Warm Ups...

    Check out my affordable & ready to use Math Warm Ups on my TPT Store!

    Which One Doesn’t Belong (30 slides ready to use today!)

    Decimal of the Day (60 days of no prep, ready to use slides for virtual or in person)

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    Hi, I'm Mona!

    I help 1st – 5th grade teachers like you develop a classroom that lays the foundation for engaging and rigorous student led math instruction.

    Learn more about me and how I can help you here. 

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