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Math Bell Ringers

Instructor: Derek Hughes
Using bell ringers to start your math class is a great way to get your students thinking mathematically. The ideas listed here will help your students get settled in while you take care of other class business.

Ringing the Math Bell

Bell ringers are short activities designed to help your students get settled into the classroom while you take care of daily business such as collecting homework or taking roll. Math bell ringers, when well designed, can both serve to help your students get into a mathematical mindset and also help them review previously learned concepts. What follows are several examples of math bell ringers that you can use to get your class started smoothly.

Review Problems

The simplest math bell ringers consists of posting or writing review problems on the board for students to quietly complete as soon as they come in to the classroom. These problems should ideally be from concepts you are currently working on and serve as extra exposure to these concepts. For example, if you are working on the times tables with students, these review problems can come from the current table you are working with as well as previously covered tables.

Logic Puzzles

Using logic puzzles as your math bell ringer can help to get students ready for math work. Though these bell ringers may not always be tied directly to what your students are working on, logic puzzles are very mathematical in nature and can help students 'switch' their brains over to math.

Logic puzzles can be written by you or found with a simple web search. Not only will these puzzles help students get into 'math mode', they are also often fun to do, adding a level of play to the start of your math class.

Daily Sudoku

Another good bell ringer that is slightly related to logic puzzles would be to do a daily Sudoku. Sudoku puzzles, if you are unfamiliar, are number based puzzles in which a grid must be filled in with the numbers 1-9 according to certain rules. Sudoku puzzles are incredibly popular and information concerning them as well as examples can be found all over the web.

These puzzles can either be handed out as worksheets, written on a white board for students to copy, or projected from a computer. Completing a Sudoku puzzle, like logic puzzles, will help students get into the math mindset even though they are not completing math problems.

An example of an expert level Sudoku puzzle.

Number of the Day

This bell ringer is mainly for lower grades but can certainly be adjusted to challenge older students, too. For the number of the day, you will assign the class a number of the day and their job is to define it in several ways. This could mean that they might indicate whether the number is odd or even, write it out in word form, draw a picture representing it in base-ten blocks, write an addition problem in which it is the sum, or anything else you might think of.

Using a number of the day as your bell ringer can serve as review of different concepts (odd/even, addition, subtraction, etc.) and can even be designed to include whichever concept the class is currently learning. To make this activity more fun for students, they could create a number journal in the beginning of the year and every 'number of the day' could go inside this journal so that they have a complete collection of their work.

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