Five-Minute Math Fillers

Use these quick math fillers when you have 5 to 10 minutes
How many times do we have an extra five or ten minutes before recess, lunch, or dismissal? I always keep a list near my teaching podium with a few time fillers for these situations. Most of them require little to no prep!
Guess My Number (Mastermind) is a fun way for students to use logic to fill 5-10 minutes!
Guess My Number (Mastermind)
Skill: Logic
  • Teacher Materials Needed: Whiteboard or projector
  • Student Materials Needed: -None-
Directions:
  1. Think of a 3-digit number and write it down so you don't forget. The number should have 3 unique digits, i.e. 305 instead of 355.
  2. Call on a student to guess the number.
  3. Write down the guess so everyone can see it.
  4. Record how many of the guessed digits are in your number.
  5. Record how many of the guessed digits are in the correct place value.
  6. Keep collecting guesses until correct.

Multiplication Tetris uses basic facts and spatial reasoning to create a fun class competition.
Multiplication Tetris
Skills: Basic multiplication facts, spatial reasoning
  • Teacher Materials Needed: 2 dice, projector (optional)
  • Student Materials Needed: Blank grids (I use 10x16 grids), writing utensil
Directions:
  1. Roll the dice. Either call out the numbers and/or project the dice.
  2. Students trace a rectangle with the rolled dimensions and write the corresponding multiplication problem inside.
  3. Continue rolling until students can no longer make the rolled dimensions fit in their grids.
Variations:
  • Draw names after a few rolls. If those students have been able to make them all fit, let them line up first/get their backpacks/get a small treat. Continue rolling and drawing names.
  • Use paper with more squares and 10-sided dice {Amazon affiliate link}.
Quick problems are a differentiated way to fill those extra 5 to 10 minutes before recess, lunch, or special.Quick problems are a differentiated way to fill those extra 5 to 10 minutes before recess, lunch, or special.Quick problems are a differentiated way to fill those extra 5 to 10 minutes before recess, lunch, or special. 
Quick Problems
Skill: Varies, problem solving
  • Teacher Materials Needed: Whiteboard
  • Student Materials Needed: Dry erase marker and dry erase board -or- paper/sticky note and writing utensil
Directions:
  1. Write two problems of differing levels of difficulty on the board.
  2. Let the students choose which one to solve on their desks or sticky notes.
  3. Check them while they're at recess or special.
  4. Put the answer keys on the board.

Quick images provide a perfect opportunity to practice spacial reasoning and listening to others.
Quick Images
Skill: Spatial reasoning, flexible thinking, listening to others' reasoning
  • Teacher Materials Needed: Projector, images made in advance
  • Student Materials Needed: -None-
Directions:
  1. Show an image of dots on the projector for a few (2-3) seconds and then cover it up or take it away. Make sure that it is NOT enough time for them to actually count them one by one.
  2. Give students a few moments to figure out how many dots they saw.
  3. Optional - show the same image a second time for a few more seconds.
  4. Go around the room and call on volunteers to tell how many dots they saw. Students can either repeat what another student said or give some sort of signal to show that they got the same thing.
  5. Show the image again and leave it up.
  6. Count the actual number of dots.
  7. Choose students to describe how they counted/grouped the dots. This is the essential piece. Ask them to be as specific as possible.
  8. Occasionally ask another student to explain how the previous student counted them.
True/false equations are a quick time filler
T/F Equations
Skill: Reasoning
  • Teacher Materials Needed: Equations and non-equations, whiteboard or projector
  • Student Materials Needed: -None-
Directions:
  1. Write equation or non-equation on the board.
  2. Give students time to think about if it is true or false.
  3. Call on students to explain their thinking.
Mental Math
Skill: Mental Math, verbalising thinking
  • Teacher Materials Needed: Whiteboard or projector, math problems close to landmark numbers or combinations of 10
  • Student Materials Needed: -None-
Directions:
  1. Write problem on the board.
  2. Give students time to solve it mentally.
  3. Call on 2-3 students to explain their thinking as specifically as possible. Write down their processes.
Use these quick math fillers when you have 5 to 10 minutes



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