Start as you mean to go on!

Start as you mean to go on!

Tús maith leath na hoibre!

So it is with every maths lesson. It is recommended that each maths lesson should start with an oral and mental starter, which:

  • reinforces some previous learning; not only does this serve to consolidate understanding but, if the content is more familiar to the child, this builds confidence and encourages participation.
  • should be active so as to further encourage the participation of all children eg using activities that incorporate mini-white boards (MWBs) requires more children to be involved
  • should only last for about 5-15 minutes; it should not take over the main part of the lesson

Below are some suggestions for oral and mental starters, both for those who are Operation Maths users and for those who are not.

Operation Maths starters:

In the Teachers Resource Books there are recommended oral and mental starters, designed to consolidate prior learning and lead logically into the lesson that follows. It is suggested that this phase of the lesson lasts for 5-15 minutes.

  • In the junior end TRBs for infants to 2nd class, within the weekly breakdown of suggested activities to teach the topic, there are suggestions for whole class warm-ups  and oral activities (starters).
  • In the senior end TRBs for 3rd to 6th class, within the day-by-day breakdown for each lesson there is an oral and mental starter listed (see image below); this is then explained in more detail within the starters bank, a section of the TRB that follows the topic chapters. To view a sample, click on the link to download the Operation Maths 5 Starters Bank

HINT: While there are typically many suggestions given in the Operation Maths TRBs, it is not necessary to do all of them. If you find a starter that works particularly well, you could note this alongside the margin of your TRB, or in the notes section, to highlight it for future use. And, if you are working with more than one class (ie multi-class), use the starter suggestions from the class level that suits the ability of the majority of the room. 

Other Starters:

There are many other types of starter activities that can be used interchangeably with the starters in the Operation Maths TRBs so as to add further variety to lessons.

    • Number Talks (infants to sixth) is an excellent maths methodology,which promotes the development of number sense and mental calculation skills. The rationale behind Number Talks aligns itself very closely with the underlying principle of Operation Maths, i.e.  teaching children to understand maths, not just do maths. To find out more about number talks and to access a whole suite of ready-made resources for all class levels just click on the link above. To find out more about the overlaps between Number Talks and Operation Maths please read on here.
    • Same but different Math (infants to sixth) is a collection of fantastic images, arranged, in a very teacher-friendly way, according to topic. The teacher can pick out images relevant to the current topic, and suitable for the ability of the children and then ask them to come up with ways in which they are the same and also different. The children could use their MWBs in landscape layout, with a line drawn down the middle, on which to record points. Similar to this is Same or Different images
    • Splat! (first to sixth) from Steve Wyborney, is an engaging activity that helps build students number sense, while having math conversations. The difficulty increases from number bonds of ten through to multi variable equations. There is even a Fraction Splat! series. He also shares lots of free resources to aid implementation. Furthermore, a teacher could develop Splat! into a game/activity played in pairs or small groups, using concrete materials, where a child hides a number or quantity of objects/counters under Splats! (cut out pieces of card or fabric) for others in the groups to identify.
    • The Estimation Clipboard, (first to sixth) again from Steve Wyborney, encourages the children to look closely each time at set of four images, and to use what they have learnt from the initial images to refine their estimate for the latter images. Another number sense building activity on his site is Primary Tiles.
    • WODB (which one doesn’t belong), is based on four images/symbols/quantities, to which the children must give a reason for why one of them doesn’t belong. However, the content of the images has been deliberately chosen so that it could be argued that each one of the images doesn’t belong to the group! In this way, it encourages the children to think outside the box and appreciate that there is often more than one correct answer.
  • Thinking of a Number  (first to sixth class) is a simple but effective game to play with the whole class on the IWB as a starter. This is one possible way to use it:
      • Choose a number range that suits your class and click on three clouds to reveal their clues.
      • Ask the children (in pairs perhaps) to record all of the possible answers  on MWBs which are then revealed when called upon.
      • The children should look around the room to see if there are any possible answers given with which they do not agree (eg an even number written when one of the clues is that it’s an odd number) and to explain why they don’t agree.
      • Click on a fourth cloud to reveal the fourth clue; the children should X out all of the previous answers that can now be discarded and could be asked to explain why this is so.
      • Reveal the fifth clue; this should conclusively point at one actual answer. Again the children could be asked to explain why this is so.
      • On occasion, the actual answer may have already been identified by the fourth clue. In this case, ask the children to suggest what the fifth clue might be.
    • While Thinking of a Number is limited to whole numbers up to 100, once the children get the hang of the game they could be prompted to come up with five similar clues for a shape, measurement, fraction, decimal number etc. For more ideas on how to use this please check out this post here.
  • Bar Models are one of the three visual strategies for problem solving that are used and developed throughout the Operation Maths books for the senior end. While the children and the teacher are still less familiar with bar models, a great way to make your collective introduction to bar models much easier, is to use the Thinking Blocks site (which are based on bar models; suits second to sixth class) as an oral and mental starter. The teacher can display the Thinking Blocks site on the class IWB and to get the children to respond by drawing the bar models and/or giving answers on their MWBs.
  • Solve Me Mobiles are a fantastic suite of progressive puzzles that work as a lead-in to solving simple equations and variables in algebra. That said, these could be used from third class up (and perhaps even with  pupils in second class). Again, this tool will work well displayed on a class board and in conjunction with the pupil’s own MWBs. It also has the added advantage that the children can log-in  and use this site on a device at school or at home, so that their progress can be recorded and continued each time, rather than having to start from the beginning. Indeed, it would work well if the teacher sets up a generic account so that, even when using this with the whole class, they can pick up from where they left off.
  • That Quiz is an excellent assessment tool; it can also be used to generate a random selection of quick questions to which the children respond on their MWBs.
  • Operation Maths also includes useful Follow-on weblinks. Each follow-on weblink is author-approved and is linked to a specific topic and for a specific class level. As many of these are games, they could be used as a whole class starter (as well as for for consolidation and assessment) when displayed on the class IWB. The weblinks can also be printed for the children to take home and have fun practicing maths with their parents or guardians.

And if you exhaust all the ideas above there are some more suggestions on this list of Daily Routines and on this list of Useful Websites