Routines and Their Importance

It wasn’t ever apparent to me how routinized my life is until this week.

I have a morning routine that I never blatantly established, but naturally just grew to own.  I wake up around the same time each day, usually to the licks and head butts from my adorable cat.  Before I get him situated, I always take care of myself first, in a selfish effort to help me “wake up” – brushing my teeth, showering, getting dressed, putting make-up on – and then I look at the clock and realize I’ve spent far too much time dilly dallying and now I’m running late.  My husband saves the day by feeding our cat and making my breakfast so I can run out the door and head to the school where I am working that day.

This has become my routine. During this COVID-19 isolation, it became clear to me how vital routines are to function.  The past two days have been so different. The alarm went off, but there was nowhere I really needed to be.  Knowing that I can’t go anywhere, I lounged around in bed, checking the swarm of social media notifications and news. Without a routine, staring at my phone has consumed the first hour of my past two days and hasn’t helped my mental state.  I didn’t need to get up and get dressed because I had nowhere to go; didn’t need to spend 20 minutes over-powdering my face with make-up. Suddenly, my sense of normalcy and regularity was gone. Time was a meaningless construct.  

Routines help us function. They give us structure in our lives so that we can focus our energy on other important things.  I never realized that the way my days are structured puts my mind at ease.  Today, I tried something different.  I woke up and pretended I had to be in a classroom on time.  I did my normal routine and immediately a sense of normalcy and calmness struck me.  As I reflected on my mental and physical response to my simple daily routines, I realized how vital instructional routines are for our children.

I certainly am not the first to think of this, but my experience during this pandemic has only further justified why routines are critical.  Specifically in teaching mathematics, using predictable and repeatable routines provides students structure. What routines do you implement in your classroom? How does class start? How do students interact with each other? How do you analyze a task as a class? How do you engage students to think and reason mathematically?

Many of us are away from our classrooms, and those “typical” routines now.  If you’re transitioning to online learning, we suggest you keep in place as many of the routines you had as possible.  Anything that still applies to an online space will support your students in a continued sense of normalcy. If your school is on an extended break – and you have the mental capacity to reflect – consider what routines you’ve used this year that you love, and which ones you might want to change when you get back to teaching.

If you really have time on your hands, a great next step would be to read Routines for Reasoning. This summer we’re hosting (dependent on current COVID-19 situation) the first ever Routines for Reasoning Institute: Redesigning Classroom Interactions to Foster Math Thinking with Amy Lucenta and Grace Kelemanik, authors of the book Routines for Reasoning.

Amy and Grace have developed specific instructional routines for mathematics that have transformed how students show their thinking.  Their “instructional routines are specific and repeatable designs for learning that support both the teacher and students in the classroom… enabling all students to engage more fully in learning opportunities while building crucial mathematical thinking habits (Kelemanik, Lucenta, & Creighton, 2016).”  

Reading the book during your social distancing time is one thing, but as we all know, developing quality teaching requires much more than reading about theory.  This Institute will provide educators the much needed time, space, and guidance to bring these routines into the classroom routinely, with follow-up opportunities to ensure implementation is successful.

The event, originally scheduled for June 30 – July 2, 2020 (8:30 am – 3:30 pm ET daily), has been postponed to August 10 – 12, 2020. Registrations are fully refundable until June 19, 2020 (with a $50 processing fee). If the event is canceled due to COVID-19, no processing fees will be charged. We will let everyone know our intentions to host, or not host, by June 12, 2020, dependent on the COVID-19 situation.

Let us know (in the comments or on Twitter) what new routines you’re building as we are engaging in distance learning. We’re interested in routines you’ve established for yourself or for your students in this ever changing world. We look forward to growing as a community and supporting each other.


Kelemanik, Grace, Amy Lucenta, and Susan Janssen Creighton. Routines for reasoning: Fostering the mathematical practices in all students. Heinemann, 2016.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s