By Angela Ruark, M.A.

The hook. It’s what grabs you and reels you in. Whether it is the first sentence of a novel or the first scene in a movie, the hook has to be good to capture the audience’s attention. Think of the last exciting book or movie that held your attention from the very beginning. There was probably a little drama or suspense, or maybe something funny. What if we could apply this principle to the introduction of a math lesson?

Creating an introduction activity with an engaging hook can be as simple as utilizing a couple of student volunteers or playing a game, or, it can involve a little advance planning and include elaborate dramatizations and a fog machine. Personally, I like a little shock and awe or a random British accent (works every time). However, all you really need is something a little out of the ordinary to engage students’ attention in the lesson.

Get Your Students Hooked on Math

This infographic offers some ideas and their related classroom-tested strategies that can be adapted for various grade levels to put a little pizazz into your lesson intros, offer you chances to “geek out” over math, and provide opportunities to spread your enthusiasm.

Make Math Memorable

Make Math Meaningful

Once your students are “hooked” you can “reel” them in and “land the catch” by making the opener a point of reference. A memorable introduction hook can also be useful in making connections during and between lessons. Students will remember the little things that were novel and fun. However, be forewarned—if you do this once, your students will come to class expecting something exciting again. But isn’t that what you want?

What is the most effective “hook” you use? I would like to hear from you. Leave a comment below or send me an email to share your best “fishing” experience!

Bonus Hook: Teach Decimals and Place Value

Based on a reader’s request for an idea to introduce decimals to fourth graders, we’ve created another hook: the Rainbow Decimal Map. Read the full post for instructions and ideas on adding manipulatives and pizazz.

Rainbow Chart for Teaching Decimals

Special thanks to my Mentoring Minds colleagues: Marian Rainwater for the literature hook, Stephanie Christian for the superhero hook, Debbie Wheeldon for the elephants and mice hook, and Karen Crawford for the conversation hook! 

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About Mathematical Matters

This article is part of the Mathematical Matters series, which examines all things math for elementary and middle school teachers, from the nitty gritty to the philosophical. Look back in the archives for classroom tips, activities, and strategies for making math fun and impactful for your students . . . because math matters!

About Angela Ruark

Angela Ruark, M.A., is a Math Editor at Mentoring Minds and former educator with over 25 years’ experience in the private sector and both public and private school spheres. As a teacher, she chased the “light bulb” moments, striving to make math fun and interesting for her students. Now she channels all of her experience and creativity into writing curriculum and translating difficult concepts into approachable content. After hours, you’ll find her working on a Doctorate degree, writing about Mathematical Matters for this blog, and dreaming in trigonometry terms.