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Great back to school math review activities that also help students get to know each other better.

Math Activities to Kickstart the School Year

The first week of school is always buzzing with excitement! Our kiddos are thrilled to reunite with friends, check out their new classrooms, and find their seats. They’re also sizing us up, figuring out our expectations, and deciding what the year is going to be like in our classroom. When it comes to math during this bustling week, I aim to gauge their knowledge while encouraging interaction. Using a cooperative learning approach, I help them learn the skill of collaboration while reviewing math skills. So today, I’m sharing a few of my favorite Back to School cooperative learning math activities that I love to roll out during the first week of school!

What is Cooperative Learning?

Cooperative learning is all about teamwork and collaboration. It gives our students a chance to work together to achieve common goals. In my elementary math class, this approach means creating an environment where every student feels valued and engaged. My classroom usually has a buzz of chatter as students discuss problems, share ideas, and help each other understand new concepts.

This image shows students working together to complete learning tasks.

This could look like students working in small groups to solve math puzzles, playing educational games that require teamwork, or even partnering up for a hands-on activity that reinforces a recent lesson. Each student has a role and they’re all contributing to the group’s success. This not only enhances their math skills but also builds social skills and a sense of community within the classroom.

At the beginning of the year, collaborative learning is at the heart of what I do. Not only do we get in a great math review, but we also start the process of students getting to know each other and building connections with each other. By using collaborative activities, I’m setting the stage for a year where students support one another and grow together, both academically and socially. It’s amazing to see the confidence and friendships that blossom through this collaborative approach to learning math!

How Do I Start Using Cooperative Learning Math Activities?

Implementing cooperative learning math activities is easier than you might think! It all starts with setting up a classroom environment that encourages teamwork and communication. I like to begin by arranging desks in clusters or pairs to make group work a natural part of our routine. This setup makes it easy for students to turn to a partner or join a small group for discussions and activities.

This image shows an example of 3rd grade math activities that can be used as partner games at the beginning of the year.

Stations and Centers

There are a variety of ways you can weave collaborative learning into your day. One of the simplest ways to introduce cooperative learning is through structured activities like math centers or stations. Each station can have a different task or game, and students rotate through them in small groups. This not only keeps them engaged but also ensures they’re interacting with different classmates throughout the week.

Partner Activities

Another great method is using partner work for problem-solving exercises. I pair students up and give them a set of math problems to tackle together. They talk through the steps, share strategies, and help each other understand the concepts. It’s incredible to see how much they learn from teaching and explaining things to one another.

Whole Class Collaborative Learning

I also incorporate whole-class cooperative games and challenges. These activities get everyone involved and working toward a common goal. For example, we might play a math bingo game where students have to solve problems to mark off their cards. I might scatter task cards around the room that they have to hunt for and solve once they find them.

The beauty of cooperative learning is that it doesn’t require fancy materials or complicated plans. With a little creativity and a focus on collaboration, it’s easy to weave these activities into our daily math activities. The best part is that our kids love it! They’re learning math in a fun, interactive way while building essential social skills.

Engaging Math Activities for the First Week of School

Now that we understand cooperative learning and just how easy it is to implement, let’s explore some of my favorite math activities for the first week of school. These activities are not only fun and engaging but also provide opportunities for students to collaborate and support each other. And. . . you can use them beyond the first week too!

I’ve created Back to School collaborative learning math review resources for 2nd – 5th grades. Each packet is a review of the previous year’s math skills. This makes them perfect for refreshing and reinforcing important skills before diving into grade-level content. These resources include three fun and interactive activities: Find a Friend, Task Cards, and Partner Math.

Find A Friend Math Activities

“Find A Friend” is a cooperative learning activity that gets our students up, moving, and interacting with each other. In my classroom, we’ve used “Find A Friend” in so many fun and effective ways. Instead of having students sit alone at their desks for independent practice, this activity gets them moving around and working with their classmates.

This image showcases find a friend math activities that can be used at the beginning of the year in 5th grade.

Each student receives a recording sheet. They stand up, put their hands up, and pair up with a new partner for each turn. We determine which partner will go first, either by a rule I provide or one they select themselves. Partner A asks Partner B a question from their paper, and Partner B responds. Partner A compliments a correct response or explains an incorrect one. When both partners agree the answer is correct, Partner A records it on their paper and Partner B initials it. Then, they switch roles and find new partners to repeat the process.

Find a Friend math activities help reduce anxiety by making review sessions interactive and collaborative. Students feel more prepared and confident as they quiz each other in a supportive and engaging environment. This activity not only reinforces their math skills but also builds a strong sense of community in the classroom.

Task Cards

Task cards are an essential tool in my classroom, especially during the first week of school. They work wonderfully as both an independent and partner activity. I love incorporating them using cooperative learning activities like Rally Coach or Sage & Scribe.

This image showcases 4th grade back to school math activities including math task cards and a recording sheet.

In Rally Coach, students pair up and take turns solving problems. One student solves a problem while the other coaches them through it, offering hints and encouragement. Then they switch roles for the next problem. This not only reinforces their math skills but also builds their ability to give and receive constructive feedback.

In Sage & Scribe, one student (the Sage) explains their thought process while solving a problem, and the other student (the Scribe) writes down the solution. This structure helps students explain their reasoning and ensures both partners understand the problem-solving process.

Sometimes, I even use them as a table or group activity. They truly are a great activity for a variety of collaborative learning opportunities.

Partner Math

Looking for a partner activity that will get your students digging deeper into math concepts? Partner Math is your answer.

This image highlights various partner math activities that can be used at the beginning of 2nd grade to review first grade standards.

This activity transforms math practice and review into partner work. Each student receives a half sheet of paper that has 5 math problems. They work independently to solve the problems on their half of the paper.

Once they’ve finished, the fun begins! Using the code at the top of the page, students find their partners by matching the letter and shape symbol. This person becomes their partner and they work together to make sure they both complete the problems correctly. Students will compare their answers, talk about how they got their answers, and guide each other to find the right solution if their answers are different.

Successful First Week of School With These Math Activities

These beginning of the school year math activities get my students feeling excited and confident about tackling math! By taking the time to review, we’re leveling the playing field. We are also reassuring them that they can master the material. The cooperative learning approach not only enhances their math skills but also builds a strong sense of community in our classroom. It’s amazing to see them support each other, cheer each other on, and grow together. I’m thrilled to start the school year with these engaging activities and look forward to a fantastic year of learning and collaboration!

If you’d like some ready to use collaborative resources for your first weeks of the school year, head over to my TPT store. You can find all of these collaborative review activities for 2nd – 5th grades.

Save for Later

Remember to save this post to your favorite math Pinterest board to help plan math activities for the first week of school!

Looking for some great math activities that you can use to kickstart the school year in 2nd through 5th grade? This post is full of ideas from fun find a friend activities to partner games and more!



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