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Math Blog

A K–8 resource to support deep comprehension of math skills and concepts

July 26, 2019 3-5-number-and-operations-in-base-10, 6-8-the-number-system, other-seasonal

A Math Icebreaker Your Students Will Love, Grades 3–8

Today, I’m sharing a math activity that I've used throughout the years as a back-to-school math icebreaker to get students out of their seats and interacting with each other. Plus, you can get my printable A Handshake and a Question Icebreaker Activity, along with 12 additional math resources, when you download this FREE Math Back-to-School Kit!

Math Icebreaker for Elementary Students – I’m sharing a math activity that I've used throughout the years as a back-to-school icebreaker to get students out of their seats and interacting with each other. Download A Handshake and a Question Icebreaker Activity now.

Math Icebreaker for Elementary and Middle School Students

A Handshake and a Question Activity

As a new school year approaches I begin to look for activities to use with my students, so that we can get to know each other and I can briefly observe their math skills.

One math icebreaker I've used for most of my teaching career is called,  A Handshake and a Question Icebreaker Activity. I continue to use this ice breaker with students because it has a component to it that teaches a basic concept of social interaction...This activity offers the opportunity to teach students how to shake hands and introduce themselves, a skill that isn’t included in most textbooks.

As my new students participate in this math icebreaker I assess their current math skills and observe how students interact with each other. This activity allows me to see which students are initially shy and which are naturally more gregarious.

You can also continue to use this icebreaker throughout the year as a way to review and assess students'  fact-based knowledge.

To assist you in implementing this icebreaker activity in your classroom, I've created a printable download with instructions and directions to cycle students through a set of interactions!

BONUS: Get the icebreaker activity, along with 12 additional printable math downloads, in the Math Back-to-School Kit!

Before you dive into the details of how it works, I want to inform you that the process of this activity is a bit challenging. This icebreaker math activity is worth the initial confusion, so hang in there!

math-icebreakers-for-class-icebreakers-for-students-750px

math-activities

How it works:

You will need a set of flashcards with a problem on one side and its answer on the other side. You can use almost any math content that can be put on a flash card. You will need one flashcard for each student.

For a beginning of the year icebreaker, I often make a custom set of cards, using material students have covered in the previous school year.

Pay careful attention to how students progress through the lines while you assess their progress.

Step 1: Students face each other in two lines. They should look at the student across from them and give them a firm handshake, introducing themselves. This is a skill students will need to be able to do with school visitors, people they meet, and—eventually—on their first job interview.

Step 2: Students take turns asking and answering each others’ questions from the flash cards.

Step 3: Students exchange flashcards. This step is very important, so they can be exposed to more math facts. If done correctly, the cards stay in the same place as the students progress through the lines.

Step 4: Now this is the hard part—they need to “progress” to the next partner. You can download a diagram that shows you visually how the progression works.

a.) As you face the two lines from one end, the person immediately to your left goes to the opposite end of their line.
 
b.) The person AT THE END of the line on your right comes to the front of the line.
 
c.) Everybody takes TWO steps to their right. They should be across from their new partner.
 
d.) Students shake hands with their new partners. Especially as you teach this routine, the handshake is useful to make sure everyone has a partner. If the students are having trouble, start from the top of the line and arrange the handshakes yourself, one by one. Persevere! After a few rounds students will get used to this—and you can reuse this routine throughout the year.
 
math icebreaker elementary students and middle school students
 

Step 5: You now are back at Step One. Remember that the handshake has two functions: 1) teaching how to shake hands and make introductions, while 2) making sure that after each progression you use the handshake to be sure every student has a partner.

More Back-to-School Resources

In addition to planning icebreaker activities so you can get to know new students, the beginning of the new year can be stressful with teaching classroom routines, establishing a classroom community, assessing students’ previous knowledge, and diving into content-area instruction.

Download the Math Back-to-School Kit filled with resources that will help relieve some of the stress and ensure teachers, academic coaches, and administrators lay the foundation for strong math instruction! Kit includes:

Classroom Set-up

- Math Keywords Poster & Tip Sheet
- Visual Models to Show Addition Poster & Tip Sheet
- Visual Models to Show Subtraction Poster & Tip Sheet
- Visual Models to Show Multiplication Poster & Tip Sheet
- Visual Models to Show Ratios Poster & Tip Sheet

First Week of School Activities

- Tell Me What You Think About Math Survey
- Figure Me Out Math Activity
- A Handshake and a Question Icebreaker Activity

More Ways to Enhance Math Instruction

- Ideas to Make Math Class More Fun Survey
- Prompts for Think-Pair-Share and Discussions
- STEAM Project Sample Rubric
- Six Solid Figure Tasks and Rubric
- Helping Struggling Learners in Math Tip Sheet

 

In addition to planning icebreaker activities so you can get to know new students, the beginning of the new year can be stressful with teaching classroom routines, establishing a classroom community, assessing students’ previous knowledge, and diving into content-area instruction.  Download the Math Back-to-School Kit filled with resources that will help relieve some of the stress

Download Now