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Prep Your Math in 10 Minutes or Less!


Do you find yourself forever planning out your math and prepping it? Are you trying to find activities for multiple skill levels for independent work, small groups, and a whole group? If you are like me, you want math to be engaging and meaningful, but math prep takes so much time! We have gathered some activities that can help you with your planning–you can prep your math in 10 minutes or less!

Easy Prep Math: Counting and Cardinality and Number Sense

Count and Clap for Whole Group:

This activity is simple, but students LOVE it! The teacher or designated student selects a number, says it out loud, or writes it on the board, and then the class claps and counts to that number. So simple right? Counting and clapping is a great movement activity to practice one-to-one correspondence. You can do this activity by sitting down, standing up, or even adding a little dance move to it. It is perfect for incorporating math into your few minutes during transition or between lessons.

How Many Ways: 

My kids love using their whiteboards, so we often use them to practice math. Show me the number 8. The kids can draw out 8 of something, make the number eight, create a math problem with a sum of 8, do tally marks, etc. Then we all show our boards! How many ways can we show 8?


Keep a deck of flashcards within reach during the day. Pull out the flashcards while waiting for students to finish in the bathroom. Pull out the flashcards if you’re transitioning into math instruction and waiting for technology to load. Flashcards are an easy, no-prep way to begin math. Hold up a card and have students raise their hand to answer, chorally call it out, compete in groups, etc. Use double-digit numbers and have your students tell you how many tens and ones! Or use two cards and have students tell you which double-digit number is bigger (I also have this activity in my centers!).

Mystery Number:

The teacher and the whole class can play this game, or students can work with a buddy. Either way, one person thinks of a number and writes it on the dry-erase board, hiding it from everyone else. Then, the person with the mystery number gives clues about the number, and students take turns trying to guess the mystery number. Examples of clues are, “The mystery number is greater than 5, but less than 20”, and so on. Guessing games always keep students engaged!

Counting Sets:

Sometimes, I will walk around and hand out counting chips. Students count their set of chips and raise their hands to tell me how many. I scoop that amount up and hand them a new set of chips to count. This activity is an excellent segue into doing independent activities with counting sets!

Prep Math in 10 Minutes: Operations Addition

Adding in a Goldfish Bowl: Another fun, easy prep addition activity. Use goldfish snack crackers and draw two “ponds” onto a piece of paper as a work mat. Students will count out a set number of fish to put into each pond and then add them to find the sum. This snack option is one I like to use when we are working on whole group story problems. Every student gets a bag of goldfish, and we go “fishing” while solving addition problems.


Students in my room are still so into Pop-Its. I don’t understand the fascination, but I love using what interests them to build math engagement! So, we have Pop-Its in our math centers and our ‘choose a math help’ bin! My students can use visuals, like finger counts, provided on their worksheets to complete their math or work on the addition problems using a Pop-It.


Prep Math in 10 Minutes: Operations Subtraction

Elevator Magic by Stuart Murphy

I love using math story books for math concepts like subtraction! Elevator Magic is perfect for teaching subtraction to first through third graders! The subtraction starts when the elevator goes down, and so does the magic. Ben sees crazy things every time the door opens. Ride along as he subtracts his way down to the lobby, and decide for yourself if it’s elevator magic.

Math Manipulatives:

With all my math activities, I like to have my kids explore many different avenues to complete math problems. I might pull out dry-erase boards with some activities and have them write the problem. I may put out cards and our ‘choose a math help’ bin with others–they love it when they get to use cards and my rekenrek bead boards! When kids can see the math, work through the math with moveable pieces, and use a manipulative, they become fully engaged in the skill to be practiced!


Place Value

What Number Am I Thinking? I use my smartboard and give clues: it has a 5 in the 10s place. The number in the 1s place is the sum of 5+2. What number am I thinking? A great follow-up to this activity is to do a worksheet where kids can show their level of understanding. Can they independently complete a What Number am I Thinking worksheet activity at their desks? The pictured sheet is a great way to assess skills!

Ten Blocks:

I get out the ten blocks, and my students light up! The first activity we do is practice making sets of ten with our single blocks and trading up for a ten block! I pass out piles of one blocks, and the kids have to raise their hands to trade up. We then practice writing and recognizing the numbers in the tens space and the ones! Once I know my students have a good understanding, I add a place value activity with cards and work mats to my math centers!


Story Problems

Verbal Story Problems: Make up simple addition stories, but include the students in the stories! They always get a kick out of being in the story. Put the principal in the story, and they think it’s hilarious. Here’s an example. “John went to school, and the principal (insert name here) gave him three pieces of candy. Then the music teacher (insert name here) gave him four more pieces of candy. How many pieces of candy does John have in all?” Students can’t wait to have a turn to be in the story, so include as many names as you can in each story problem!

Draw the Problem:

Students get to use their dry-erase boards again to draw the problem! Similar to verbal story problems, I make up simple addition stories (it still is most engaging if I use names they know!), and they draw them out on their dry-erase boards. After drawing the picture (I encourage using two different color crayons), they write out the problem and come up with the sum!

Sometimes we do a wrap-up activity with an addition story problem worksheet for them to complete (and take home), or we keep our dry-erase boards out and complete some additional math warm-up activities in their individual math journals!

For Even More Easy Math Prep:

If you want to look at some of these activities closer or find 1000s more, I strongly recommend checking out our unlimited printables Premium Membership!

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And if you want some great ideas from teachers, join our Fearless First Grade Teachers Facebook Group, our Fearless Kindergarten Teachers Group, or Fearless Second Grade Teachers!

Written by: Suzanne Kelley

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