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CPM Teaching Tip #14

January 13, 2012

Are you about ready to put your students into new teams in your class and start a new semester? Remember that an important part of getting students to work well together on the math is to have them do an icebreaker. Be sure that this activity helps them get to know each other and has them work together. Icebreakers should be quick, five-minute activities. Here are two possible icebreakers:


  1. Give students limited tools like 10 paper towels and eight paper clips (or something similar) and a specific time limit to build a structure with their materials. The catch is that they cannot talk while they are working and everyone needs to be part of the building process in some way. You could give a goal like creating the tallest structure or you could leave it opened ended.  After five minutes, acknowledge something that each team did well (i.e., tallest, most creative, best non verbal planning, etc.)


  1. Have students compromise about something common to all of them. Tell the teams they have a few minutes to have each person in the team share their favorite for a certain topic. (For example: ice cream flavor, kind of car, movie, sport, team name, color…or any fairly common topic.  Only select one topic.)  Have them switch speakers every 30 seconds so that each of the four students gets equal time to share her/his favorite and give reasons why it is their favorite. After each student in a team has shared (two minutes), then give them two more minutes to come to a compromise about what would be their team favorite. You can give each student equal time to make a convincing argument for what they think would be a good compromise. They have to come to a compromise that everyone supports.


  1. More ideas at

From → Teaching Tips

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