Return to the Lesson Planning series of pages.
At the beginning of a lesson, I like to get everybody busy straight away, making a calm start to the lesson and very much like the idea of so-called ‘bell’ work. Give students a task that is simple to understand and requires no more than a simple instruction, question/s and/or diagram on the board (no technology required – unless you are in the room ahead of your students which offers more possibilities). This is a particularly useful idea if students arrive at different times. Students are expected to get to work as soon as they enter the room.
If students will possibly be in the room before their teacher, they could be given instructions at the end of a lesson on what they are expected to be working on at the beginning of the next lesson. The post Bell Work has several ideas for such an activity.
Index of starters:
See also Custom Maths Revision Starters
Posts in the Category, Starters include resources that can work well at the beginning or end of a lesson. An appropriate puzzle or game can provide a good starter activity.
From Julia Smith (@TessMaths), have a look at this wonderful collection of Mathematical Hooks.
From Transum Software – Maths Starter of the Day. Note that there is a complete index of starters including the topic of the starter. Many of the Shine and Write activities would also make good lesson starters.
The resources on the site have all been classified by topic; making it easy to search for starters.
From Nathan Day – a wonderful collection of Starters – note the complete thread.
On Jonathan Hall’s MathsBot.com, you will find his collection of Interactive Starters and Drills. This collection offers a great deal of choice of topics, challenge level and the number of questions. There are numerous activities on MathsBot which could be used as starters or plenaries, for example, Differentiated Questions from his Question Generators collection.
From MEI, Picturing Mathematics Starters have been designed for GCSE work; each starter includes answers and suggestions for additional questions which could be asked.
On dynamicmaths.co.uk David Watkins has provided an extensive, easily searchable collection of Excel Mathematics worksheets. These worksheets can be customised to suit a particular class, including an option to display answers.
On A+ Click Math, choose by topic or by age from this extensive collection of problems; all questions are multiple-choice and include solutions.
Older, but still with many useful examples – see these Exemplification Examples which were written by the National Strategies for the then Secondary Framework for Teaching Mathematics. The examples illustrate what students should be able to do within a particular strand of objectives by the end of each year. Examples are in the four categories number, algebra, statistics and geometry and include examples for Year 7, 8 and 9. There are many excellent examples here still relevant for KS3.
- Number (includes Ratio and Proportion)
- Probability and Statistics
Spot the mistake activities can make ideal lesson starters.
See the excellent revision activities in Matt Woodfine’s Maths White Board.
You can choose to use the question bank or create custom activities. I particularly like Last White Board under Revision Activities. Create a custom board with a question from last lesson, last week, last topic and last term.
Also under Revision Activities, you could choose a Revision White Board, with this tool you can design your own board or select from pre-made packs; as with other resources, you can select the difficulty level.
This Custom Starter from Transum allows teachers to select the number of questions and the topics to include; scroll down the page and choose the topics you want from the Concept Selection. It is possible to save a particular selection of topics as the URL for your selection will be generated. It is also possible to drag the panels so your questions are displayed in the desired order. The beginning of a lesson can be an ideal time to review previous learning, starters like this can be ideal.
For more on Retrieval Practice see this page.
The UK Maths Challenges provides a wonderful library of multiple-choice problems; you can practice for the UK Maths Challenges with past papers for the Junior, Intermediate, or Senior Challenges. Questions and full solutions are provided.
Nrich has a series of short problems based on the UK Junior and Intermediate Challenges.
Maths Challenge questions are an excellent resource at any time – not just for preparation for the competitions, particularly with the increased requirement for problem-solving skills at all levels. The ability to choose by topic is very helpful for lesson planning. On the outstanding Diagnostic Questions site, you can choose Junior Maths Challenge questions by topic by choosing the Themed Quizzes option. These quizzes consist of sets of four or five questions grouped by topic. (Log in to Diagnostic Questions to use the link.)
Another way to access Maths Challenge questions by topic for Junior, Intermediate and Senior is from Dr Frosts’s wonderful website full of outstanding resources.
Questions such as this can make a great starter for a lesson and provide the chance to discuss number operations and the relationships between them. Manipulating numbers like this can also help with algebraic manipulation.
Looking for some more examples of this type, I came across a really useful resource on TES, “If I know this then I also know …” by Piers Butler. This would make an ideal lesson starter. As it is an Excel spreadsheet, I thought it would be simple to add another worksheet with the answers and created the Excel file CY If_I_know_this_then_I_also_know_ which is a copy of the original, but just adds another worksheet with the answers.
Transum Maths Starter of the Day has been mentioned on the Collections page; the resources on the site have all been classified by topic so you can easily find Number Starters.
Make a number puzzles with solutions from Brain Food. Many such problems are available, see for example As Easy As 1234 from MathsChallenge.net
Make 24, see 4 Numbers Game. For further information see this page on the problem and a link to an online program that optionally shows solutions as well as presenting random problems. The program will also show solutions for any given set of four numbers. If you just want to make a note of a few problems and solutions then you could use this page from ResearchManiacs.com.
Clever tricks such as Multiplication by 11 or Squares Ending in 5 can make good starters, with older students algebra can be used to establish why these tricks work. Mudd Math Fun Facts has a wealth of material that works well in the classroom.
YouTube has various videos which could make good starter activities – see Vedic Multiplication or Russian Multiplication for example. See Activity 6.3 in this CIMT Activities booklet for an explanation of Russian Multiplication.
and see this fuller explanation from Chris Lusto
Further number resources can be found in other categories in the Starters index.
For a wonderful introduction or review of equations try these excellent Mobile puzzles.
Or for a very simple introduction, try the exercises from NCTM Illuminations start with Pan Balance – Shapes, then move on to extensions, Pan Balance – Numbers and Pan Balance – Expressions
From Jonathan Hall’s MathsBot – try Worded Expressions.
Don Steward has posted this sum and product task (developed in the UK by Barbara Ball and Derek Ball) which would be ideal for a starter.
The post has several examples, starting with a numerical task then moving on to Algebra.
For some picture puzzles, where students must find the value of the objects in the grid, try What’s it Worth? from Nrich.
Further algebra resources can be found in other categories in the Starters index.
Transum Maths Starter of the Day has been mentioned on the Collections page; the resources on the site have all been classified by topic so you can easily find Algebra Starters.
Advanced Level Starters
For linear A Level courses Retrieval Practice is essential. From crashMaths, these AS Maths Key Skills Check worksheets are very valuable for Year 13 in the second year of their A Level course. The Skills Checks are all on Pure Mathematics and make ideal lesson starters.
When working through solutions, take every opportunity to illustrate with technology.
Andy Lutwyche’s collection of Erica’s Errors where students must identify errors in solutions can be an ideal starter for either retrieval practice for an earlier topic or to consolidate learning for a current topic.
Stoke Maths MEP Starters are very attractively presented high-quality resources. Looking at the Spot the Mistake PowerPoints for example, as you can see in the image below there are a great collection of questions that include full answers. It’s great to see Mechanics and Statistics collections.The revision question starters provide very useful question sets.
From Ben Bently, comes a collection of low stakes quizzes using questions from Diagnostic questions.
The post Advanced Starters – Transum includes details of the Advanced Starters collection on Transum.
I have often recommended GCSE Refreshing Revision, just like the GCSE version this Advanced Level version allows teachers to select the concepts required; the questions will change instantly to show your choices. It is also possible to drag the panels so that the questions are ordered as you choose. Refresh the page and you will get different revision questions on your chosen topics. The ability to save the web address for a chosen selection is very useful indeed.
This resource like all the Transum resources is free to use, an extensive collection of resources such as the various KS3 and KS4 self-checking exercises provide answers for any user. Answers for some resources such as examination questions and this Refreshing Revision resource are provided for subscribers; extremely good value for money in my opinion.
If you are looking for a starter on a particular topic then you can easily find questions by topic on Worked Examples – A Level, and for Further Maths – Exam questions by topic – Further Maths.
Return to the Lesson Planning series of pages.