One thing I always struggled with as a teacher was keeping my fast finishers busy. This was by far the biggest issue with my classroom management – those who finished quickly would start talking and distracting others who were still working. This is because they either didn’t know what to do, or didn’t want to do it. I didn’t have engaging early finisher activities for them!
My go to is always “read a book.” But not all students like reading or have a book on hand they’re interested in. Over time I’ve learned about the power of choice to help keep students engaged.
If students have a choice of what to do, they are more likely to actually do it since they chose it. Once I started giving students a choice for what to do when their work was finished, I had less issues with them distracting others.
Of course, it’s always a bonus when early finisher activities are easy and provide rigor! Here are 5 early finisher ideas for math you can let your students choose from to keep them engaged and learning.
Early Finisher Activity #1: Boggle
Boggle is a super easy activity to implement. All you need is a classroom Boggle board and a piece of paper for each student. You can use this activity with math or reading – students will either find math equations, or words.
After students complete their work, they can get out a piece of paper and play Boggle. They will write down as many equations or words as they can find on the Boggle board. Each number/letter must be touching one next to it (either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally), but do not all have to be in a line.
How to Make a Boggle Board
- Get a poster board.
- Add circles/squares to the board (the number doesn’t matter, but I suggest doing 16 to make a 4×4 board).
- Use a dry erase marker to add the numbers or letters in each space. If you are doing numbers, you may wish to add operation signs at the top as well to designate which operation students should use for their equations.
Alternatively, you could also print and cut out several numbers, and add velcro to your board and the back of the numbers to easily switch them out.
Early Finisher Activity #2: Math Puzzles
Some of your students may enjoy a math challenge when they finish their work. Math puzzles are the perfect activity for them! Math puzzles are a series of brainteasers that extend mathematical thinking.
I’ve used these Tangy Tuesday puzzles by Greg Tang before and students loved them! I also have created my own math puzzles which include a math crossword, equation find (similar to Boggle), math logic puzzle, emoji math, and a math maze. These puzzles are sure to challenge even your strongest thinkers and help develop problem solving skills.
Early Finisher Activity #3: Wrap-Ups
Another early finisher activity I love using is math wrap-ups! You can get these in different operations and are a great way for students to practice math facts. When students finish their work, they simply grab a wrap-up for the fact that they want to practice. They start on one side, wrapping a string around the first number. They perform the operation (for example, +6) to that number and pull the string to the correct answer on the opposite side. This continues until all numbers are done. Then, students can flip the wrap-up over to check their answers. They are so fun!
A do-it-yourself alternative to wrap-ups is lace-ups using paper plates. These are best used for skip counting. To make one, you just need a paper plate, a hole punch, a long string, and a marker.
Start by writing the number you are skip counting by in the center of the plate, and the numbers you count randomly around the edge. Add a hole punch next to or below each number. Tie a long string around the hole for the first number. That’s it! Students will lace the string in and out of the holes in order to practice skip counting.
Early Finisher Activity #4: Writing Prompts
One of my favorite early finisher activities is to have students complete a writing prompt. This can allow students to be creative while getting in some extra writing practice. Using math writing prompts can also help reinforce the use of math language, as well.
Simply allow students to choose a writing prompt once they have completed their work. You could alternatively assign a prompt for the entire class to work on when done; however, students will be much more engaged if they are able to choose it.
Early Finisher Activity #5: Missing Number Challenge
This last activity for early finishers requires a little bit of prep beforehand. The Missing Number Challenge requires students to figure out numbers missing from an equation based on the numbers they can see.
You can write the equation(s) on your whiteboard or chart paper, then cover up certain numbers with a sticky note. Students must figure out the numbers that are covered up using context clues. Just make sure not to cover up too many numbers, or it might be too hard! Here’s an example I used in my class a couple years ago:
I hope these early finisher activities are helpful to you and have provided some inspiration on how to keep your fast finishers busy!
What are your favorite early finisher activities?
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