Is it ethical, as a teacher, to waste an entire week (or maybe two!) on incorporating fun little seasonally themed math facts colour by code worksheets when we could be doing ‘real work’?
Seasonally themed colour by number math worksheets have always been important to me. They are so cute, and fun, and the kids love them, and they make my life so much easier.
But is that enough?
As I pulled the binders down from the shelf each year I felt excitement about all of the seasonally themed math facts colour by number colouring pages which I loved to share, and my students loved to work on. These math facts worksheets and other seasonal activities throughout the day were my secret sauce for maintaining classroom calm during the pre-holiday excitement and energy.
Why do seasonal math facts colour by code worksheets make sense?
As teachers we are often struggling to fit in all of the curriculum that we are required to teach. If that is true, then are my motives (the Christmas holiday worksheets are cute, they keep the kids quiet, the math facts worksheets take almost no prep, and my life is easier) selfish?
I will promise you that there are many blog posts out there that will tell you about a teacher’s love of cute worksheets. But what do we know about the impact of colour by number worksheets, or any other type of math facts worksheets on student learning?
I mean, I can give my opinion. I love Christmas holiday worksheets. and they do work for me in my classroom. But opinions are not facts, and no opinion is research based.
Misconceptions around a math disabilty and math facts.
When discussing math anxiety, it is crucial to identify and address the lack of understanding about the significant impact of math anxiety on being able to create inaccurate perceptions of a math disability.
Math anxiety is sometimes inaccurately identified as a math disability. Proper recognition and intervention are essential to fostering a healthy learning atmosphere so that students can understand that math is fun.
Math anxiety may cause a student to freeze when they need to accurately calculate math facts. Repeated moments of freezing and stress can lead to refusal to do the work, which can then lead to an assumption of a math disability.
Or, perhaps worse, if a student refuses using words like, “I don’t like math.” teachers can perceive that refusal as a behavioural concern. Then the teacher may address the behaviour not the math anxiety that comes from lack of confidence with math facts fluency.
Math anxiety is a real thing, and it has a real impact. With students who have severe difficulties in math, disentangling math anxiety from actual dyscalculia can be challenging.
Math anxiety and practising math facts with colour by code worksheets
One of the beautiful things about math colour by number colouring pages is that students are drawn to them which creates engagement.
Colour by code math worksheets boost confidence by offering a less-intimidating environment for students to engage with mathematical concepts. This may promote a positive perception of their own abilities.
Sure, there are fewer math questions on a colouring worksheet than there are on a worksheet with rows and rows of questions on it. But that is part of the charm and wisdom of these colour by number sheet math facts worksheets. Students are not overwhelmed by the math. They can take it more slowly.
Another charm of these worksheets is that they are completely relatively few math facts repeatedly. This means that students must practice the same equation repeatedly in order to complete all the sections for that particular colour.
This kind of repetition may support rote learning of a student’s math facts. Developing automaticity with math facts also builds a student’s confidence in their math skills.
Social emotional learning and colour by code math facts
Seasonal worksheets are an available tool teachers can choose to keep in their toolbelt for supporting emotional regulation in the classroom.
In an earlier blog post on social emotional learning (SEL)I address the importance of integrating social emotional learning (SEL) activities throughout the school day. These colour by code worksheets are a great example of how to do this.
There are, of course other tools like;
- physical movement
- social interaction
- quiet spaces
- structuring your instructional day and week the best way that you can to meet students energy and needs
- recognizing developmentally appropriate abilities.
The purpose of incorporating all of these things throughout your day is in part to support your classroom management through SEL. However, it is also to develop in students a self-awareness of which strategy or strategies work best for them as individuals.
In this section I have linked prior blog posts I have written about aspects of classroom management. I also offer a FREE classroom management checklist to provide more understanding about pillars of classroom management.
The role of choice in a differentiated classroom
Differentiation is a cornerstone of successful classroom management.
And choice is recognized as an important part of differentiation. We see that in the abundance of choice boards that teachers offer.
Choice boards allow students to actively engage in their own learning. They do this by selecting and activity or activities through which they think they are best able to demonstrate their understanding.
Providing choice is just one way we can motivate our students, and choice empowers students to choose their learning path.
Having a student choose their own colour by number worksheet does not constitute a major choice. But learning to make choices starts small, and making a decision is a big job for many students.
Providing the same colour by code math facts worksheets to all of your students does promote some elements of differentiation and SEL support, but we can still go deeper.
5 options for offering choice using colour by number worksheets
- Offer students a choice of colouring worksheets using the same math facts strategy (ie. make ten) but choosing from different pictures (ie. balloons, animals, rainbows, etc.?)
- What about the same picture (ie everyone is colouring balloons), but they get to choose the math facts strategy they are working on (ie. counting on one, make ten, add ten, doubles, etc.)?
- They could choose which strategy to work on, and which picture for that strategy.
- You can create a system where students know which strategy they are expected to be working on, and then they have a choice of which math worksheet to choose.
- Put Colour by number colouring pages as one of many choices on a choice board that students have for practicing their math facts.
- What about a digital activity instead?
This latter option provides the greatest level of content differentiation as well as product differentiation within the context of choosing colouring sheets.
There is one last way of offering choice with colour by number worksheets, and I will address that next.
Incorporating diversity using colour by code math facts worksheets
I taught at a Christian school, so in my context using Christmas holiday worksheets was totally appropriate and inclusive.
However, this is not the same for everyone.
Using seasonal resources, especially in primary, enhances the exploration of diverse cultural experiences. In truth, it is a part of the social studies curriculum.
Are there Hannukah or Diwali colour by numbers you could share?
Can you also include colour by number at Chinese New Year’s?
Despite my context I have always valued other cultures, so I have included themes like Hannukah or Diwali. Sometimes, that included seasonal math facts worksheets.
My preference is not to protect diversity and inclusion by banning any mentions of anyone else’s culture or celebrations in order to avoid being offensive.
Of course, a colour by number colouring pages is not the same as a cultural exploration. But it can make a student feel valued..
Can we use colour by number sheets as a small part of our recognition of other cultural celebrations?
Of course,you may feel differently. Maybe your school or district disagrees with my thoughts. 🥴
There are still lots of colour by number worksheets that do not celebrate even the most widely held celebrations.
What other goodies do math facts colour by number sheets offer us?
Fine motor skill development
I have heard teachers bemoan the lack of fine motor skills that their students have.
In the next breath they were defending the importance of doing all of the cutting for the student so the art project would look better on bulletin boards.
Say what? As a recovering perfectionist myself, I do get it. And there are lots of dots I don’t connect myself.
But let me help you connect some dots here. 😊If you want to improve your students’ fine motor skills they must have opportunities to use their fine motor skills.
So many students are using ipads instead of playdough, or playing video games instead of colouring.
There are many ways to develop find motor skills (ie. playing with playdough, playing games with tweezers, picking up and counting small objects, cutting paper etc.). Colouring is one of them.
Do you want your students to improve their handwriting skills? Use colour by number colouring pages to develop fine motor skills.
This is much more fun and engaging than endless rows of the letter “g” or math facts.
Building classroom community with math facts.
Collaborative Colouring Sessions
Colour by number sheets can be a fantastic collaborative activity. Copy the math worksheets onto an 11” by 17” paper and have students work as a team. Especially before holidays, students are chatty. Give them a focus to work on while they chat.
This is also a great classroom community building strategy. If you rotate your student groupings regularly they will often need support to get to know their “new” classmates. The shared focus makes building relationships easy as they can chat while focused on something else.
Over time the students in your class will all learn to know each other and that will make your learning environment safer and a place that your students can take bigger risks.
Encouraging peer support for math facts understanding
Collaborative colour by number maths questions offer students an opportunity to support and assist their peers, creating a culture of mutual help. This strengthens relationships and contributes to a supportive learning environment.
A safe learning environment is also an aspect of differentiation.
Using math facts to celebrate seasonal themes and find common ground
Earlier I mentioned introducing the occasional seasonal worksheets as a part of recognizing diversity and inclusion.
However, with seasonal worksheets, teachers can create shared experiences that also support celebrating holidays and cultural events.
For example, as I shared earlier, celebrating Christmas was a given in my school. However, I also made it a point not to use math worksheets with Santa, reindeer or elves.
My own children loved Santa, and I do too. However, Santa is not a part of Christmas for every family at my school.
Saint Nicholas maybe, Santa no.
So we celebrated Christmas. We used Christmas holiday worksheets that had pictures of Christmas trees, bells, sleighs, children in Christmas sweaters, gingerbread men . . . and the list goes on.
These worksheets supported our celebration of the holiday by focusing on love, family activities and traditions that were represented in the images, rather than on Santa and his presents. Of course, there were also biblical activities in my context.
This celebration of what we all shared enhances a sense of community within the classroom. We do not focus on one thing (Santa) that excludes some of us.
Teachers must find the right tools to create the engagement and participation of students in math. The evidence supports the importance of including math facts colour by numbers maths questions as a tool that we, as teachers, use.
I love providing students with a fun, dynamic, engaging learning environment.
However, I am also not one to waste time in the classroom. I could tell you stories about how I organized my classroom with this very thought in mind. 😁
Colour by code math facts worksheets support so many important skills and concepts in the classroom. They are cute, celebratory, engaging, fun and motivating. And let’s not forget so much easier for you to prep than more complicated activities.
I have seen for years the positive impact of these tools on my students. I am grateful to learn that this teaching decision that I made based on intuition drawn from observing my students was supported by research.
There are in fact many more benefits to using colouring worksheets than I have shared here.
By providing students with a creative outlet to express themselves, manage stress and practice their math facts, you are creating a harmonious, supportive and productive classroom environment.
Share an example of your favourite math facts colour by code activity in the comments below.