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Ideas for Using
'Morning Math'
In Your School


Principal Larry Davis introduced "Mr. Davis Math Questions" in August 2000. According to state test score data from the previous year, his students' math skills needed a boost. Teachers were putting renewed emphasis on math that year, and Davis wanted to do be part of that special push. He wanted to do something to emphasize the importance of math skills in students' everyday lives.

Morning Math
Boosts Test Scores

Since Larry Davis introduced "Mr. Davis Math Questions" in August 2000, math scores at Doctors Inlet Elementary School have risen by 12 percent. Even more amazing are the results with the schools exceptional (ESE) student population.

During the 2003-04 school year, ESE students [students diagnosed with special learning needs] at Doctors Inlet did not meet the national Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) goals set by the No Child Left Behind Act. The federal government requires that all subgroups of student population score at least 39 percent, but the ESE students at Doctors Inlet scored only 25 percent on the math portion of the test. That put Doctors Inlet in jeopardy of being labeled a "failing school."

"All the ESE teachers now participate in the 'Mr. Davis Math Questions' exercise," explained Davis. "I personally took that a step farther by going into each ESE classroom to ask the questions."

All that special emphasis paid off. "Our ESE math score jumped to 43 percent," said Davis. "We were overjoyed to learn we made AYP. In addition, we were awarded the 'A' school status by Florida's Department of Education."

Davis decided to have some fun by including a special math contest as part of his morning announcement routine at Doctors Inlet Elementary School in Middleburg, Florida. Two days a week that year, he presented seven grade-appropriate math questions. He posed one question for each grade in his school, kindergarten to grade 6.

"Mr. Davis Math Questions" was born of a need. Now, four years later, it continues! At Doctors Inlet, math scores have risen by 12 percent since 2000. The results with the school's exceptional (ESE) students have been even more encouraging. [See sidebar.] The twice-weekly math question is such a part of the school routine that students would be disappointed if it was to go away.


Each week this school year, Larry Davis will share two days of "Morning Math" questions with Education World's readers. You should feel free to use and adapt those questions in your school in any way you see fit. Following are just a few possibilities.

"Morning Math" Contest
You can use the questions in much the same way Larry Davis uses them at Doctors Inlet Elementary. Each Tuesday and Friday, Davis presents a group of seven questions, one for each grade level -- kindergarten to grade 6 -- in his school. The questions are presented at the end of Davis's morning announcements. As soon as students hear their question of the day, they "do the math" on a sheet of scrap paper. When a student has a correct answer, they deliver it to their classroom teacher. If the student is the first to arrive at the correct answer, that student gets to go to the principal's office to receive a special pencil. At Doctors Inlet, the pencil's inscription reads "My Principal Is Proud of Me". When a student collects 5 pencils they can 'cash' them in for a prize -- a McDonalds or Chick-fil-A gift certificate, erasers, books, and more.

You could do the same thing in your school. Have pencils imprinted as Davis did, or have them imprinted I'm a "Morning Math" Winner! or with some other appropriate inscription.

In addition, feel free to change the name of this activity. You might even emphasize how you feel about the importance of math skills by including your name -- just as Larry Davis does when he presents "Mr. Davis Math Questions."

"Math Star" Chart
Teachers might create a special classroom chart that includes each student's name. Teachers can check students' "Morning Math" results each day a question is presented. Every student who presents the correct response that day earns a star for the "Math Star" chart.

Math Masters Gallery
Clearly, some students excel in math more than others. As a matter of fact, some of those "math stars" might soon corner the market on "Morning Math" pencils! Perhaps teachers can track student winners in their classes. When a student wins five pencils, their photos might be posted in a "Math Masters Gallery" -- prominently displayed in a school hallway -- where all students can see them.

They might earn another special prize too; for example, a special "My Student Is a Math Master at [Your School Name Goes Here]" bumper sticker for the family's car.
Once their photo is added to the gallery, those students are no longer eligible for the pencil prize. That will motivate others to become members of the "Math Masters" club.
Another idea: Perhaps you want to have some extra fun! Capitalize on the popularity of Harry Potter by naming the special club the "Math Wizards." Your technology teacher could take digital photos of students in a Hogwarts T-shirt and "photoshop" a wizard's hat onto the student's head.

More Ideas

  • Adapt the questions we present to include names of real students or teachers and real situations in your school. Students will love hearing their own names and the names of their classmates in the questions.
  • Teachers might include the week's questions in their weekly newsletters to parents. Students will know how to "do the math" and they can demonstrate their math skills for their parents. Doing this offers one more opportunity for skill reinforcement.
  • Teachers can use upper-grade questions to challenge their advanced math students.
  • Use the activity to emphasize test-taking skills. Share the coming week's questions in advance (in your weekly staff memo) so teachers prepare a simple slip that looks something like this:
    Morning Math Question
    O a. [answer a goes here]
    O b. [answer b goes here]
    O c. [answer c goes here]
    O d. [answer d goes here]
    O e. none of the above
    Next to each letter, teachers will offer one possible solution to the day's math question. Only one answer is the correct one. Students do the math on the back of the slip, then color in the bubble next to the correct solution on the front of it.
  • Turn "Morning Math" into a language arts activity. Have students submit questions to the principal. The principal, in turn, might use some of those questions in a third day of "Morning Math." Of course, the principal will make special mention of the student who wrote each question!
  • When presenting math questions over the public address system of closed-circuit television, repeat each question two times. That way, all students will be able to listen to the question the first time. When the question is repeated, they will record the important information and do the math.
  • What about visual learners? Some students have difficulty with auditory input. Do you have closed-circuit television in your school? If so, you might present each question in writing (or as a slide) as it is presented. If you do not have the benefit of television, principals might include the week's Morning Math questions in their weekly bulletin to teachers. That way, teachers can write the questions on the board or on a sheet of chart paper. The combination of visual and auditory input will help most students gather the needed information and do the math.
  • Too much going on in your school first thing in the morning? No problem! Go ahead and use "Morning Math" in the afternoon. Use it whenever you can squeeze it in!
  • All teachers should make a point to make time to review the Morning Math question of the day. Doing that provides one more opportunity to reinforce skills all students should have. Regular reinforcement helps ensure that skills "stick." A skill that sticks is a skill students will have when state test time rolls around.