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Easy and Fun Math Warm-Ups to Improve Number Sense

As a teacher, I know how important it is to start the day off with bang and get those math brains warmed up and ready to tackle the day’s lessons. That’s why I’ve created a list of easy and fun math warm-ups to improve number sense that are perfect for upper elementary students. If you are a teacher looking for ways to engage your students at the beginning of your math lesson, here are a few ideas for fun math warm ups to get you going!

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First up, mental math! Start the day off with quick mental math exercises to get those brains working. These can be simple arithmetic problems or more complex word problems that require students to use problem-solving and critical thinking skills. 

My students love working on Extended Facts. First, we start with a simple multiplication or division fact. Then they practice their multiples of 10 with that fact! (This sets them up beautifully for multiplication strategies like the area model and partial products.) They LOVE it! Not to mention, every kid in my class feels successful. For example, students who are not as fluent use a multiplication chart to get the original math fact, and then they are set for the larger numbers!

Here’s an example of how it works:

  • T: “What is 6 X 7?
  • S (write or say): 42
  • T: Ok, if we know 6 X 7 =42, can we use that to figure out 600 X 7?
  • S (write or say): 4200!
  • T: If we know 6 X 7 = 42, do we also know what 60 X 700 is?

And so on.

Also – I know when they write it it technically isn’t mental math – but we use the white boards as a scaffold until they can hold the ideas in their heads!


Who doesn’t love a good puzzle? Number puzzles encourage students to think deeply about place value by using clues to figure out the target number. As each clue is shown, they write the digits in the correct spot. (Mine do this on their dry erase boards.) After all the clues have been given, the number is revealed – usually with a decent amount of cheering and/or groaning!

Number puzzles practice place value concepts like: knowing that in a multi-digit number, a digit in one place represents 10 times as much as it represents in the place to its right and 1/10 of what it represents in the place to its left, using powers of 10, and determining the value of digits in any place. They are always a huge hit with my fifth graders! These puzzles come in a teacher directed version and student version and are completely editable! You can get them by clicking here.

Number puzzles like Sudoku and KenKen also encourage students to think about mathematical ideas and improve their logic!

Math Games

Make your math warm ups fun with some interactive math games! There are so many types of games you can play, whether online, with a board game, or with a deck of cards.

My students enjoy the Place Value Game, and it couldn’t be easier to do. You need one deck of cards without the face cards (I like using these giant ones, just for fun!) and students need a dry erase board and marker. Just tell your students how many digits will be in the number and that their goal is to get the largest number possible. They draw a line for each digit on their boards. Then you draw cards, one by one. 

As you draw, students place the digits wherever they think will get them the biggest number. For example, if you draw a 9, they should (hopefully) place it in the largest place available. The catch is – no moving numbers once they’ve placed them! This makes for lots of crossed fingers that you don’t draw a nine on the last card when they’ve only left the ones place open! 

Many other math games appeal to upper elementary students as well! Try Multiplication War, Yahtzee, and 24 for a fun way to start your math block. 

problem of the week

Each week, present your students with a multi-step word problem to solve. These problems can be open ended or more structured, and can cover a range of math concepts.

During this Problem of the Week routine, students build their mathematical understanding, work with classmates, and revise their thinking in just 5-10 minutes a day. By the end of each week, they will practice their problem solving strategies, revisit their work multiple times, share with partners, and make changes if necessary. If you want your class to think critically and creatively about math, problem of the week is perfect.

Read more about Problem of the Week here. Grab the resource for your 5th graders here.

wrapping it up

Starting the day off with a math warm-up activity engages students and gets them excited about math. Whether it’s mental math exercises, number puzzles, math games, or problem of the week, there are plenty of options to choose from to suit your students’ needs and interests. These activities help students improve their problem-solving and critical thinking skills, as well as boost their confidence in their math abilities. So why wait? Get those math brains warmed up and ready to tackle the day’s lessons!

Ready to try these math warm ups?? Check out this free guide – each math warm up has a one page description and directions for using it with your class.

I hope these ideas help your students get excited about math! Do you have any questions about math warm-ups for upper elementary students? Leave them in the comments below!


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