Daily math routines that spark student curiosity

Classroom routines can build creativity and community. Find out how.

By Amplify Staff | December 5, 2022

It’s the educator’s eternal question: How do I keep students engaged?

When designing daily math practice, teachers are always working to make real-world math problems fresh and relevant, find new entrance points for concepts, or simply come up with surprises. All of these approaches can be very effective.

And though it may seem counter-intuitive, so can routines.

The power of instructional routine

The word routine can connote a sense of doing something mechanically, even without thinking. But teachers know that well-placed classroom routines can open opportunities for creative thought.

Routines provide a way for you and your students to build and maintain a sense of familiarity and structure throughout the school year. They also free up time teachers would otherwise spend giving directions. When students know exactly how a certain activity should run, and understand all instructions and expectations, everything goes more smoothly.

That’s why a core set of shared routines can be a powerful, practical force for establishing an effective classroom learning community..

Bringing math routine into the classroom

We know routines can be effective in any classroom. Now, we also have research offering direct evidence that certain routines are particularly effective in math classrooms.


Do you want your students to have more time to think before solving and sharing about a problem? 

GOAL: Provides low-stakes opportunities for students to share their thinking

TIP: Be sure to monitor the pairs carefully, listening to partner conversations so that you can purposefully select students to share with the class.

How to do it:

  • Prompt students to take about one minute of quiet, individual thinking time to consider a problem.
  • Pair students in groups of two or three. Invite them to discuss their thinking and solve the problem together.
  • Select and sequence three or four pairs to present to the class. Begin with the most concrete and least abstract thinking, even if it is incomplete, then compare the strategies to bring out the common underlying mathematics.

Gallery walks

Do you want students to present, critique, and reflect on mathematical concepts? 

GOAL: Students reflect on their learning and solidify their understanding of mathematical concepts

TIP: Help groups organize their work so that other students can easily follow along.

How to do it:

  • Groups of students create a visual display of their work.
  • Instruct students to move around the room, either alone or with their groups, to observe the work of others. Say: “You can observe, record notes, or write questions on your own paper, or write on each other’s work by posing clarifying questions, giving thumbs up, or identifying portions you disagree with.”
  • During class discussion, prompt students to respond to questions or critiques of their work.

The more you’re able to repeat these routines, the more students can focus less on what they’re doing and more on what they’re thinking and learning.

Where to learn more

We worked with our curriculum team to develop routine cards for math teachers, so you can implement routines that are part of our math program in your classroom. Most of the routines you’ll find throughout Amplify Desmos Math have been specifically proven effective in math classrooms. All of them—including those listed here—have been adapted from established teaching practices.

We invite you to access a full set of routines and decide which ones to try out in your classroom!


Download free math instructional routine cards.

Learn more about Amplify Desmos Math.

Explore Desmos Classroom.



Mathematics Problem-based learning

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