‘Bell’ Work

(Image courtesy of chrisroll /: FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

At the beginning of a lesson I like to get everybody busy straight away, making a calm start to the lesson and very much like the idea of so called ‘bell’ work. Give students a task that is simple to understand and requires no more than a simple instruction on the board (no technology required – unless you are in the room ahead of your students which offers more possibilities). This is a particularly useful idea if students arrive at different times. Students are expected to get to work as soon as they enter the room.

Some ideas:

  • Some short questions on a topic studied recently.
  • Ask students to write down all they can remember on any topic. They could perhaps draw a mind map or a picture to represent their ideas.
  • Ask for some specific facts, eg write down the names of all the quadrilaterals they can with a quick sketch for each.
  • Students make up some short questions to review a topic – they could then put their questions to the class.
  • Provide students with a diagram, they write a question, (See ‘Here’s the diagram ….’)
  • Questions from Dynamic Maths by David Watlins
  • A good starter that is easy to explain is asking students to find numbers with exactly 2 factors, 3 factors …
  • Countdown type problems or ‘Make 24‘. Print out some Make a number puzzles with solutions from Brain Food. Note the other problems available on Brain Food, a Logi-Number puzzle could be written up quickly for example. Many such problems are available, see for example As Easy As 1234 from MathsChallenge.net. For further information on Make 24 see the Number page of my Starters and Plenaries blog.
  • UK Maths Challenge questions can make excellent starters and you don’t even have to provide the multiple choice answers!
  • Some of the problems on sites like Starter of the Day or A+ Click Maths are simple enough to easily write up on the board, for example see this problem on adding fractions.
  • A book I like very much is ‘Thinkers’ from ATM, many questions here would be very simple to put to students at the beginning of a lesson.
  • At the end of a lesson – tell them what you expect them to do the minute they walk into the next lesson, so they know what there bell work is before thy even get to the lesson!

Why not start a collection of such ideas? Many of these ideas could also be used for those odd moments in a lesson when you find you have some extra time.

Mathematics Online – Interactive Tests

For some interactive tests try maths online by Franz Embacher and Petra OberhuemerSome are multiple choice, there are also other types of tests including matching exercises.
These could make good lesson starters.

Most of the resources are for older students though one or two on algebra might be useful for younger students.

If you are looking for further interactive tests like this see extensive collections from Dynamic Maths Worksheets; see also InterActMath which is designed to accompany Addison-Wesley and Prentice Hall textbooks but does stand alone. Choose a book and a chapter for several exercises, the view can be enlarged so could be displayed on an interactive whiteboard. The questions are multiple choice. It is possible to view examples with complete explanations. A keypad is provided for entering mathematical expressions.


A game of Countdown is  great way to start or end a lesson.


You can download an excellent free programs for the Numbers Game from Chris Farmer’s CSF Software site.

For a low tech solution print out the Make a number puzzles with solutions from Brain Food.
For other number puzzles see the Number page on Mathematics – Games.

For a new challenge why not try Coundown with Fractions from Nrich? See also the Nrich Countdown collection.