Do athletes hit the field cold turkey with no warmup? Do musicians take the stage with no warmup? Of course not! Then why on earth don’t we, as students, take just a few moments to warm up before doing a math lesson? Math is a skills-based subject, just like sports and music. Warming up for math is as valuable as warming up in sports or music or any other activity that requires preparation.

So, what does it mean to warm up or stretch before a math lesson? Before starting a math lesson, flip back in your notebook and look over the last two math lessons you completed. This is to warm up your brain which has most likely thrown out the math you learned. It takes about 90 seconds, and yet it is remarkably powerful for learning math.

Students don’t practice this simple habit because they’ve never been taught to, or because they are so discouraged by math that they already assume they won’t understand the lesson (so why bother), or because they just want to get through the lesson as fast as humanly possible without any extra time. But we are talking 90 seconds of extra time, and it ends up saving time during the lesson because the brain is prepped for more effective learning. Overall, students will end up spending less time in math if they get into the habit of warming up before a math lesson.

So, here is what I recommend as a full warm-up procedure before beginning a math lesson.

1) Get yourself set up to begin

2) Take a deep breath

3) Force a positive thought into your brain (like “I can actually do math”)

4) Look back over the last two lessons you completed and skim over them. Particularly look over the assignments and see if you can remind yourself what kind of problems you worked, how you worked them, etc.

5) Finally, begin your lesson for that day

And while I was using an analogy when I titled the article “Always Stretch Before a Math Lesson,” in all honesty, physically stretching would also be great to do before beginning a math lesson. You feel better and it gets the blood flowing which absolutely improves the performance of the brain. A little stretching goes a long way.

Happy Teaching!

-David Denison

P.S. Check out our website for additional homeschool resources and math-related blog articles.

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