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Rigorous Math With Color by Number Activities? Yes!

Can you offer rigorous math using color by number activities? The answer is YES!  Read this blog post to find out how.

One goal I always keep at the forefront of my mind when planning math activities is making sure that I am making math approachable. When my kiddos realize that math is doable and isn’t as scary as their minds make them believe, they can engage. One activity I found that helps make this happen is color by number. Sometimes, I think people may see color by number activities as less rigorous math practice. But after years of use, I can absolutely say that is not the case.

In my classroom, I make my color by number activities challenging but not frustrating. I incorporate problems that make students think and even involve a level of productive struggle. I focus on the kinds of problems where my students commonly make mistakes, and sometimes I include the answers they might get with those mistakes (but I include them as answers to other problems). Pairing these with a color by number activity takes away the fear but not the rigor. Let’s look at why I believe color by number activities can be an effective tool for rigorous math practice.

Color by number activities are super popular in elementary classrooms. But what about upper elementary, middle school, or even high school math? Do these engaging activities have a place in secondary math? Are they really rigorous math practice? It’s a topic with many sides to consider. So, let’s explore whether these colorful activities can truly offer the kind of math practice our students need.


One of the biggest perks of color by number activities is their ability to make math practice more enjoyable and engaging, no matter the age level. I’ve found that when kids are having fun, they’re more likely to develop a positive attitude toward math, which is crucial for their long-term success. And. . . the more engaged they are, the better they are connecting to the activities. By mixing art with math, these activities cater to different learning styles, making math practice more appealing to students who might not enjoy traditional math exercises.

Immediate Feedback

These color by number activities are a great way to engage your students and provide immediate feedback with their work.

Another benefit of color by number activities is the immediate feedback they provide to students. As students work on the problems, they can quickly know if they’ve made a mistake — if their answer isn’t on the coloring page, they need to recheck their work. As they color more of the page, if they discover that the coloring pattern doesn’t seem to be turning out correctly, it may be a signal to re-evaluate their calculations. They may find they’ve made one of those common mistakes that resulted in an incorrect answer that was actually an answer to a different problem. This helps students learn from their errors on the spot. (I actually recommend that students solve all problems before coloring, just in case they get the same answer for two different problems…..then they know they need to go back and check those problems.)


If you’ve taught or even taken a math class, then you know that repetition is key to helping students learn and understand the concepts. Many times, color by number activities offer more practice and repetition than a traditional worksheet or textbook. But you won’t hear students complain about the amount of work because they like the activity. The repetition involved in these activities reinforces the targeted math concepts.


Whether using for targeted skills practice or a review of concepts, color by number activities can help. They are also great to use as a bell ringer (just complete one or two problems a day), as independent practice, as an early finisher activity, or even as homework. Having color by number activities in your teacher toolbox helps you meet a variety of needs.

Best Practices for Using Color by Number Activities for Rigorous Math Practice

it is easy to weave color  by number math activities into your lessons.

When it comes to incorporating color by number activities in the classroom, I’ve found that a thoughtful approach can make them a valuable part of rigorous math practice. Here are some of my best practices for ensuring these activities are both effective and engaging.

Balancing Art and Math

It’s essential to balance art and math. The math problems should be the main focus, with the coloring serving as a fun reward for solving the problems correctly. The images can be holiday-related or just form an interesting pattern! Think adult coloring book meets math class. Color by number activities in the math classroom do not need to look like the cartoon coloring book style activities used by lower grade levels.

One of the things I love about this balancing act is the built-in mental breaks that coloring provides. Learning a new skill, like math, takes a lot of mental focus and energy. The coloring aspect gives the brain a little rest, allowing it to reengage without causing mental fatigue.

Aligning With Rigorous Math Curriculum Standards

aligning your color by number activities to your standards ensure that each activity is furthering student understanding.

To make sure color by number activities contribute to rigorous math practice, I align them with our curriculum standards and learning objectives. This means customizing the activities to fit the topics we’re covering, whether it’s ratios and proportions, combining like terms and practicing exponents, or inequalities. Just grabbing a random color by number activity is not the goal.

‘Mixed practice’ color by number activities can also be used as a spiral review. Just make sure that each problem covers a skill that students have already learned. This way students are provided with a review opportunity that keeps previously taught skills and concepts fresh in their mind.

Differentiation and Personalization

Every classroom has students with varying math proficiency levels, so differentiation is key. I create different versions of the same activity to cater to different skill levels. This might mean decreasing the number of problems for some students or adding more complex questions for others. By personalizing the activities, I ensure that every student is engaged and challenged at their level.

And. . . when everyone is using the same (or similar) coloring image you can easily differentiate without students being able to tell who is doing lower-level or higher-level work. This is such a simple way to maintain anonymity in the classroom. In many cases, I also have different patterns for the same skills, which can make the coloring a little easier/faster for students who enjoy less detailed coloring patterns.

Combining With Other Teaching Methods

Color by number activities can be used with an skill or as a review. They are a great way to provide rigorous math practice while keeping it fun and engaging.

I believe in a balanced approach that combines color by number activities with other instructional strategies. This might include hands-on manipulatives, interactive games, traditional worksheets, and digital tools. By using a variety of methods, I ensure that students get a well-rounded math education. Color by number activities can be a fun and effective part of this mix that provides a different way for students to engage with math concepts and practice their skills.

While color by number activities might not seem like rigorous math practice at first glance, they can be highly effective when used thoughtfully. By balancing art and math, aligning with curriculum standards, differentiating for student needs, and combining with other teaching methods, these activities can play a valuable role in math education.

Color By Number Resources to Use in Your Classroom

Now that we’ve taken a deep dive into the benefits and best practices, I’m excited to share my color by number resources! I designed these to make math practice both rigorous and engaging. These activities are thoughtfully crafted to align with key math concepts, helping your students master skills through targeted practice. Whether it’s multiplying decimals, fractions, or area and perimeter, each worksheet is created to challenge your students without causing frustration.

Math Is the Focus

One thing you will notice right away is that the set-up of these activities is a little different than a traditional color by number activity. The math problems are found on one page and the coloring activity is on another. The main reason for this is to keep math the focus. By putting the problems on a separate page, students are provided with space for solving the problem and showing their work. Math first – coloring second. After solving the problem, students will use their answers to then determine which spaces to color in.

Even with abstract patterns, students can identify problems that might be incorrect and get the feedback they need to check their answer.

These resources provide immediate feedback. If a student can’t find their answer on the coloring sheet they know there’s a problem and they need to take a look at the problem again. If students find their answer but the color doesn’t seem right, they have another clue that they might need to take a second look at their work. This immediacy really helps students find their mistake and correct it. It is so much more effective than going back and looking for an error a few days or a week later.

Save Time Differentiating

Additionally, each resource includes multiple versions to cater to different learning levels, ensuring all students are challenged appropriately. For example, a typical set might include three different versions of a worksheet, each with varying levels of difficulty. This allows you to quickly and easily differentiate for the needs of your students. Each version features around 15 – 20 problems, providing practice to reinforce the concepts.

Up Your Rigorous Math Instruction With Color by Number Activities

By integrating these activities into your curriculum, you can ensure your students get the rigorous math practice they need in a format they’ll love. If you’re looking for a way to make math practice more dynamic and effective, check out my color by number resources by visiting my TPT store! They’re perfect for reinforcing tricky concepts and helping students avoid common mistakes.

Here are a few of the rigorous math skills and concepts your students can practice with color by number activities.

keep your rigorous math practice engaging and relevant with color by number activities

You can also find my color by number activities by grade level. Here are some quick links to make it easy.

If you’ve never used color by number activities in your math classroom, I hope you will give it a try. It is a great addition to your teacher toolbox!

Save for Later

Remember to save this post to your favorite math Pinterest board to plan for rigorous math practice in your classroom!


Welcome to Cognitive Cardio Math! I’m Ellie, a wife, mom, grandma, and dog ‘mom,’ and I’ve spent just about my whole life in school! With nearly 30 years in education, I’ve taught:

  • All subject areas in 4th and 5th grades
  • Math, ELA, and science in 6th grade (middle school)

I’ve been creating resources for teachers since 2012 and have worked in the elearning industry for about five years as well!

If you’re looking for ideas and resources to help you teach math (and a little ELA), I can help you out!



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