Sparking Mathematical Thinking with the "Number of the Day" Routine

Recall the elementary math warm-up "Number of the Day" worksheets? These math activities involve tasks like writing numbers in expanded form and checking odd or even. However, these tasks, though hitting teaching standards, often miss fostering authentic math thinking. In this post, we introduce a balanced twist to this math routine, going beyond standards to spark deeper math exploration and valuable discussions.

The Pitfalls of Traditional "Number of the Day" Worksheets

Conventional "Number of the Day" worksheets aim to cover many math concepts at once, yet they often promote rote memorization and formulaic thinking, missing the essence of numbers. Task completion overshadows the joy and curiosity of math. This routine benefits those who know, leaving struggling learners behind.

An Equitable Twist: Fostering Mathematical Thinking

Imagine a "Number of the Day" routine that values individual contributions, promotes mathematical thinking, and engages all students regardless of their skill levels. Here's how you can transform this routine into an enriching experience:

1. Choose a Number of the Day:

Select a number that's appropriate for the grade level. For example, the number 3 would be appropriate for Kindergarten, but too easy for 3rd grade. I teach third-grade and I like to start with the number 25. It usually brings out multiplication, addition, subtraction, and place value. I suggest that upper grades (3-6) explore numbers less than 100 because numbers above 100 tend to only bring out Place Value. Additionally, to help students develop a deeper understanding of fractional amounts, I suggest doing unit fractions in 3rd grade, other fractions in 4th grade, and decimals in 5th grade.

Sample Number of the Day Math Routine Posters

2. Ask Open-Ended Questions:

Instead of providing a checklist of tasks, pose open-ended questions that invite diverse responses. "What do you know about this number?" is a great question to ask that leaves it open to multiple responses. Encourage students to share what they know about the number, whether it's related to its factors, multiples, prime status, place value, or any other aspect.

3. Collaborative Discussions:

Create an inclusive environment where students discuss their findings in small groups or as a class. This encourages the exchange of ideas and exposes students to various perspectives on the same number.

Number of the Day Math Routine poster

4. Extensions and Challenges:

Offer extension activities that cater to different levels of understanding. For students who grasp the basics quickly, provide more challenging questions that delve deeper into the number's mathematical properties. "What are different ways you could use multiplication to get this number?" "How do you know?"

5. Celebrating Diversity:

Every student brings a unique perspective to the activity. Celebrate the diversity of responses and emphasize that there is no single "right" answer. This boosts students' confidence and helps them embrace their individual approaches to problem-solving. I also like to write student names next to their responses. This shows that I value their thinking.

Benefits of Number of the Day thinking routine:

  • Everyone has something to contribute
  • Every student experiences success
  • Shows kids that thinking matters, not just answers
  • Math understanding is deepened through discourse
  • Focus on flexible thinking, and clear communication.
  • Lots of natural opportunities to discuss math properties
  • It's fun (for teachers and students)!


The "Number of the Day" routine doesn't have to be a mundane checklist of tasks. By infusing it with open-ended questions, collaborative discussions, real-world connections, and opportunities for creative expression, you can transform it into a powerful tool for fostering mathematical thinking and encouraging equitable participation.

As educators, our goal is not just to cover standards but to nurture a genuine love for learning and discovery. This revamped routine does just that, ensuring that all students have something valuable to contribute and gain from the world of mathematics.