The first days of a new school year set the stage for the culture and climate of your classroom. What kind of culture and climate do you want to exist in your classroom? If you want your students to know that this year, they are going to have fun while learning how to interact with each other in a positive, respectful and uplifting way, then this page is for you.  Here are some first day of school math activities for 4th graders to 8th graders.

Cooperative Collaboration

This is a game called 1 to 100 and will help to get your students talking and interacting with each other. Start by putting students into groups of four, with desks turned facing each other.

Each student gets a different colored highlighter and each group of four students gets one worksheet per group with all the numbers from 1 to 100 listed at random. The teams are challenged to see if they can circle all the numbers from 1 to 100 in order within two minutes.  The trick is that the paper is given to student #1 in each group, he/she finds and circles the number 1, passes it to person #2 in the group, they find and circle the number 2, and the paper continues being passed around the group, with each student circling the next number in turn.

When the time is up, ask which group got to 50, 40, 30, etc. Ask if they think they can do better. Let them have a minute to discuss how they might improve their group’s performance. Collect the first copy of the worksheet and pass out a new copy, one per group. Start the timer again. Repeat this process for a 3rd time. Students should start to notice that all of person #1’s numbers are all in one quadrant of the worksheet and of course are all circled in that person’s color of highlighter, making it much easier to find their next number.

This is a great way to get students to notice patterns and to also just be comfortable with talking to one another. 

Math Symbol Memory 

Arrange students’ desks into groups of four and have each student take out a sheet of paper. Tell them that you will be projecting some math symbols for 60 seconds. For round 1, project four rows of math symbols with 4 symbols in each row. After they have 1 minute to study the symbols, turn off the projection and have them write as many as they can remember. Project the original signs and see who had the most. 

For round 2, ask them to discuss strategies to do better on a second try. Show a new slide with 4 rows of symbols with 4 symbols in each row. See how they improved. Allow them to discuss what strategies helped them do better as a team. Many students will assign themselves to memorize just one row and then they will help each other so that, as a team, they know all the signs in all the rows.

Take Photos of Great Group Behavior

After you have completed one of the above activities, project pictures you just took of your students showing good group behavior. Have them tell you what positives they are seeing. Some responses will be, “We put our heads together and we listened to everyone’s ideas.”  You and your students will enjoy these activities that will set the stage for a fun, productive and respectful year.