June 24, 2015
Who says math isn’t fun? We love math just the way it is, but for students who need a bit more encouragement to see math’s best attributes, it helps to get creative. Math teachers are very creative (and know how to have fun!). We dug through the archives to unearth nine math games, courtesy of math teacher and Teach For America alum Emily Mason, to help students practice problems, increase comprehension, and have fun in the classroom.
1. Round Robin Benefit: Round Robin is a cooperative activity and allows for group work in which each student has a specific purpose (ensuring everyone participates). Directions: Put students in groups of four (pre-planned to avoid classroom management issues and to ensure that you have one low student, two average students, and one high student in each group). Assign each student a color pencil and have them record his or her name so you can see who is responsible for specific steps in the activity. Each teammate will complete one operation or problem, and then pass on the worksheet to the next teammate. If students feel as though someone on their team has made a mistake, they may politely ask their teammate to reconsider their answer.
2. Sequence Benefit: Sequence helps students practice an objective (especially beneficial with a math objective that requires rote steps to come to an answer) without having to use the typical pencil-paper structure. Directions: Create index cards in advance to show the individual steps of solving a problem. Make as many cards as necessary to solve the problem and paper clip them together. This is one problem. Make as many sets of problems as you need to accommodate the students in your class. Group students together and assign them numbers: Student 1 identifies the first step in solving the problem and places it on the desk. Student 2 identifies the second step and places it beneath the first step, and the process continues until the card with the solution on it is placed.
3. Maze Game Benefit: The maze game is a fun way to practice math problems. Directions: Get about 20 (or as many problems you want students to practice) pieces of computer sized paper. Write out the 20 problems in big print ALL in the same color so that students will be able to see the problems from their seats. Write “start here” on the first problem. Students will solve the problem on their own paper. The answer they find will tell them what problem to solve next. They look for the answer in a different color marker on the top left hand corner of the next problem they should solve. Then, they solve that problem, identify the answer, and find the next problem to solve. The maze ends when they solve the final problem in which the answer is written on the “start here” problem. This strategy is also great in making sure that students are not practicing problems incorrectly because they cannot move on in the maze until they find the correct answer.
4. Beat the Buzzer Benefit: Beat the buzzer helps instill a sense of urgency in your students and is a great way for students to review for tests/quizzes. Directions: Each student needs to have a pre-made answer sheet to record work for each problem. Create an index card for each problem and establish an order in which the cards are to be passed around the room. Each student should start with a particular problem number and record the work to that answer on his or her answer sheet. Start the timer for a set amount of time that you want to give your students to complete each problem. When the timer buzzes, students pass their cards to the next student in the established rotation in your room. Typically, this activity is done silently to give a good measure of where students are in terms of mastery.
5. Find Someone Who Benefit: Find Someone Who gets students to move around the room and practice problems at the same time. Directions: Students walk around the room and complete a problem on their classmates’ sheets. The student that answers the problem initials the box to indicate that he or she solved it. Students may only have a classmate sign their sheet once (this activity also really helps build classroom culture because students are reliant on each other to complete this activity).
6. Whiteboards Benefit: Whiteboards are awesome and contain multiple purposes: 1) they invest students (they LOVE working on whiteboards); 2) allow for constant checks for understanding so that you always know where and for whom mastery is breaking down; 3) they can be used in groups or by individuals; and 4) you can make them yourself (you don’t need to buy them!). Directions: Present problems to the entire class and ask students to solve the problems on their whiteboards. When you say, “flip it,” the students should flip their boards to show the work they’ve done. Make sure you already have the answers written out for the problems you are presenting, so you can quickly and easily check which students have the correct answer.
7. Learning Stations Benefit: Learning stations gives students space to practice multiple skills during a class period. They change up the regular structure of a math classroom by allowing students to complete stations in an allotted amount of time. Learning stations are especially useful for quiz/test review. Directions: Learning stations are self-explanatory and very flexible. Use them as a review method with each station representing an objective that will be on the unit test or quiz. Students begin at one station, and when the buzzer goes off, students get up and move to the next station in the room. Consider placing pre-made packets at each station so students know what is expected at each location, and you’re able to assess their mastery.
8. Bingo Benefit: Bingo is another great review game for quizzes / tests. Directions: Write a series of problems on transparency sheets and cut them up into little pieces. Pull a problem transparency piece, put it on the overhead, and ask students to solve the problem on their individual answer sheets. If they get a correct answer, they are able to cross off a square (any one they choose) on their BINGO cards. Feel free to work out a problem together if you feel like students need it. Students should be required to show all work on their answer sheets before declaring BINGO!
9. Jeopardy Benefit: No introduction needed, Jeopardy is a popular review game, especially great for quiz/test prep. Directions: Use the same format as regular Jeopardy, except with your own problems and answers. Students LOVE this game. To ensure everyone participates, try Whiteboard-style Jeopardy. Put students in groups of four (again, make sure you pre-plan these groups) to form teams, and have them write numbers (1-4) on their whiteboards—one student writes the number 1, one student writes the number 2, etc. Put the Jeopardy answers on a projector or whiteboard. Then call out one number to provide the answer. (All students must solve the problem because they do not know which number you are going to choose.) This game is great for encouraging peer support.
What other math games do you use to increase class engagement and understanding?