Back to School Ideas for Math Classes - a collaborative post

Early mornings, late nights, parent emails, clipboards and suits, coffee, felt pens, the exclamations of "oh, I get it now!" It's all coming! From 0 to 100 overnight! 

Are you ready?? Eeeep! This post is especially for Math teachers in the first days of school. 

Ready, set...
In either the days, weeks or months leading up to the first day, we hit up every dollar bin in a 50 mile radius. Just yesterday I got 10 packs of pencils for $1 each at the Target dollar spot.

Dollar Store Finds for the Classroom

In her post about keeping Back to School costs in check, Mrs. E Teaches Math highlights some classroom dollar finds. Scissors, dice, cards, plastic storage bags, stickers!  

These microfiber cloths are especially important for the back to school list. They work WAY better on white boards than felt erasers. If you can find black ones, you're good for years.

Making connections with students

Welcome, students
I remember getting the advice "Don't smile before Christmas." It wasn't the best advice. Kids need to feel welcome! I especially liked reading this post from Secondary Math Shop on how crucially important it is to make connections with our students. 

She gives great advice on how to make that happen: 

1) Be tuned in, 2) Create a safe environment, 3) Partner with parents, 4) Make a personal connection, 5) Nurture skills that will help them to be part of a bigger community. 

It's so easy to get sucked into standards, data and scores. When our kids are older and look back, they won't remember all that. They will remember how happy and inspired they were in our classes.

Back to School Math project

Bulletin Boards
I LOVE classroom decorations for so many reasons, the most important being how they lessen student anxiety. This amazing "Math is Everywhere" bulletin board is in Middle School Math Man's classroom and I can't stop looking at it. First of all, it's awesome! Second of all, students made it! 

Each tile is made by one of his students to show that Math is everywhere. What an amazing way to start the year.

How to be a Good Mathematician posters

Anchor charts, equation references, problem examples, motivational quotes... the more the better. Some call it distracting, I call it... AWESOME. 

These "How to Be a Good Mathematician" posters from Miss Math Dork are colorful, motivational and remind students of what it means to be a good mathematician. I especially love one that reads 

"A good Mathematician knows that QUICKER doesn't mean BETTER"

There are 14 posters in 2 versions (1 set of super-colorful ones and another set of more printer-friendly ones). Best yet, the preview gives you 4 for free. 

Growth Mindset posters

And then there are these great Growth Mindset Posters from Mrs. E Teaches Math. As a special education teacher, this quote holds a special place in my heart. Fish outswim cheetahs. 

Mrs. E started yer year with the Marshmallow Challenge this year and said it was a big success.

Back to School Math pennant

Student work
I love displaying student work. It motivates my students and makes them feel good about themselves, especially on days when they don't think they can do it. 

We can all look over, see the work hanging there and know it's possible. For Back to School I wanted to make a Math pennant that shows how super cool Math is! Kids can color and add personal information to this Back to School Math Pennant that you can hang in your classroom as decoration.  

Back to School Math project

Creative projects
I LOVE this cute back to school activity from Free to Discover that combines getting to know students with Math. The center of the flower is a pie chart of 5-8 activities that students completed on a typical summer day. 

Students represent the amount of time they spent on each activity as a fraction and then convert between fractions, decimals, percents and central angles.  I love this activity because it's one that combines creativity with Math. 

Back to School Bingo

To encourage kids to get up, move around and talk to each other in real-life, this Bingo activity from Learning Made Radical is perfect. First of all, it's free! But even more importantly than that, it lets kids break the ice of seeing each other face-to-face after a long summer or maybe even for the first time ever. 

order of operations puzzle

My friend at Math Dyal likes to get right into Math on the first day with puzzles.

With her 9th graders, she gives a quick review of the order of operations then gives this 30-piece puzzle for students to complete together in groups. I like that this activity combines Math with collaboration so that shy kids are given a reason to talk to each other. 

My Solution for Frequently Forgotten Pencils

Mandy also wrote this post about pencil management that was featured on the TpT blog. If you always have one or two kids who ask for pencils every single day and you wonder where they go, this post is especially for you (and me!). 

We hope you have am amazing year!


  1. Thanks for compiling all of these great ideas together!

    1. Thank you for adding your ideas! I love your circle project!