The Magic Number is all about value. As teachers, we value a lot of things. Special pens, our favorite pad of sticky notes, and our 12 minutes of lunch. But the hottest commodity in teaching is time: precious, precious time. Losing even a minute of time doing something trivial and unnecessary during the day can feel like losing an hour.
That’s why back to school events like labeling all of your desks only to get an updated roster 10 minutes later makes us unannounced fire drill-level angry. Or, when we get a new student in the middle of the year unexpectedly 10 minutes before the arrival bell rings and we have to scramble to prepare a space and supplies for him. Teachers have enough to stress about, so anything extra should be forbidden. Fortunately, this is preventable due to the Magic Number.
What is the Magic Number?
The Magic Number is simply a number you assign to each student on your roster. Numbers are typically assigned in alphabetical fashion.
#1 Use the Magic Number before school starts to avoid last-minute roster changes
You can label book bins, coat hooks, station cards, even DESKS with magic numbers. Even if your roster changes the day before school starts, you will still be left with a similar number of students. Rather than changing a student name on 10 different objects in the classroom (which often involves printing another label or laminating another name tag), you simply adjust your master roster to include the new student. This results in students receiving a new magic number on the roster, which is no sweat.
#2 Use the Magic Number for lining up and keeping track of your students
Have you ever been out at recess, ready to head back inside when you realize that you are missing one student? It can sometimes take a few minutes to narrow down the missing party, and by that time, you have already lost 2 more students to the allure of the playground games happening nearby.
Having a Magic Number system where students line up from 1 to 24 (or however many students you have) can totally eliminate this problem. Students learn from the first day of school how to line up in this order and can quickly recreate this order every time you leave to go somewhere or need to assemble in order to return to the classroom.
Click the image below to get your free editable lanyard roster!
I use these plastic sleeves for my lanyards.
At the beginning of the year, I find it super beneficial to have a lanyard version of my roster with student numbers. By the end of the year, I can recite students’ numbers in my sleep, but it takes awhile! This is also useful to have for a substitute. Keep an extra lanyard with your sub plans. Grab your free magic number roster card here!
#3 Use the Magic Number for fun transitions and building number sense
With the Magic Number system, you can call students to line up in various ways. You can call students with odd or even numbers, students with multiples of 2, students whose numbers add together to create an even number, and so on! You can also use these techniques for randomly grouping students for classroom activities. The options are endless. Instead of assigning numbers 1-25, you can get creative and instead assign numbers 100-125, 1,000-1,025, or even .01-.25. This is totally scalable to the grade level you teach.
#4 Use the student numbers for easy new student preparation
No longer will you need to scramble to set something up for a new student. If you start the year with 25 students, make sure to create at least 5 extra sets of anything classroom-related and label them with the numbers 26-30. Any new student then adopts the number 26 when he or she joins the classroom. This will ensure a calm, predictable introduction into your classroom instead of a rushed, stressful morning on the student’s first day.
A final note about students and numbers
The magic number in the classroom should not replace a student’s name at any point; rather, it should accompany a student’s name. It is very important for students to feel their identity strongly in the classroom, especially at the beginning of the year. Seeing his or her name on the walls, materials, and elsewhere in the classroom will make each student feel welcome and an important part of the classroom community from the start.