Math review games can breathe life into your classroom, especially in the dreaded spring semester. All teachers know the following things to be true:
- February is crazy!
- We will all hope/pray for a snow day (even the crazy Texas folks).
- We will all feel the pressure of standardized testing.
In light of that pressure, I wanted to provide a few math review ideas that require students to “get up and move”. Movement in the classroom, we know its a good thing, yet sometimes it is difficult to manage. Most students enjoy getting out of their seats and doing their work in another part of the class, whether that be with a group or individually. If managed well, it can we a win-win. Students learning and working happily, teachers facilitating conversation, asking questions, and floating around the room. Wait, maybe that was in my dreams.
All joking aside, there are three different types of math review games I would like to share. These are not limited to testing and as mentioned as feedback in the reader survey, hopefully a few tricks to get students engaged to add to your toolbox.
Math Review Game: Speed Dating
What is Speed Dating?
Speed Dating is a review game in which students are paired and face each other. I often would turn my room into 3 rows of pairs (6 total), going the length of the room. Students become experts at a specific problem and then switch partners and get a new problem to solve. Since each partner is an expert at their own problem, students should be able to help each other if needed. I used whiteboards to show work and had a recording sheet for students to turn in and keep track. Students would have time to become experts and I would check their work. Then, we would set the timer. Student would switch problems with their partner, work the new problem, check, and get their original question back. Time goes off, one row of students switch.
Why I Love Speed Dating?
Obviously speed dating is a hit for the laughter and awkwardness that come with the title. Aside from that there are some other sneaky tricks that I get to utilize:
- The goal is work quickly which improves their fluency and practice.
- It requires minimal set up. A set of cards with problems (1 per student), white boards, and a recording sheet.
- Students love it and are moving but all at the same time and on my command.
- I can easily differentiate the class. As I mentioned before I had three different rows of pairs and based on where each student was seated I could differentiate. Maybe you have some kids who are doing well with the concept? Seat them in a row and give them a more challenging set of cards. Maybe everyone needs some practice? Seat students in a peer tutoring setting, where one student is more comfortable with the topic.
- Everyone is in a seat. Controlled chaos, need I say more?
Downsides to Speed Dating?
Since the goal of speed dating is to be quick and fun, it can be tricky to have a time limit. Also, there is for sure noise and conversation taking place, so you have to be okay with those two factors.
The Key to Speed Dating?
Students have to get quiet when the timer goes off, so have some sort of signal that they are familiar with, or you will lose them quickly.
I have done this with a class of 32 ninth grade Algebra 1 students, not sure if that is something to be proud of or if I am just plain crazy. It was fun, really fun!
Math Review Game: Challenge
*Disclaimer* I have not ever used challenge, but my sister, who teaches sixth grade, saw it used once and now implements it regularly in her classroom.
What is Challenge?
Challenge is a fast paced head-to-head competition. It is perfect for math facts, vocabulary, identifying geometric concepts/shapes, pretty much anything quick that you want students to move to long term memory. It looks a lot like The Family Feud. The class is divided into two teams and they line the wall of each side of the classroom. A contestant from each side approaches the center of the room where the teacher calls the problem. Depending on the content, it can be as low prep as “7×8” or as organized as having a problem projected for everyone to display. Keep track of which team has the most points and that team wins one challenge point for the semester/week/month.
The best part: it is all done in silence. Students know their team, move to a line, and stand in line in silence. Obviously this is a taught and practiced routine.
Why I (my sister) Love Challenge?
It is the perfect sponge activity. Three minutes left in class, quickly get challenge going. The fire drill messed up your schedule, another perfect challenge opportunity. A few other great reasons to try it:
- You can easily differentiate it. Since you choosing the problems as each set of students come up, you can bump it up or take an opportunity to build confidence.
- It can last as long as you want. Because each challenge match is worth only one point, it doesn’t matter how many problems you ask.
- Kids love it. Fun, quick practice.
- The contest goes as long as you want. This minimizes the questions about prizes, what they get if they win, and extending the length, since each team only earns one point for each match.
Downsides to Challenge?
The routine of this activity has to be explicitly taught and practiced to keep things silent and moving. Some students may get a little nervous being in front of the class, so be sure to set the expectations that this a safe place.
Math Review Game: Scavenger Hunts
What are Scavenger Hunts?
Scavenger hunts are my go to math review activity. 10-12 problems are posted around the room, each page having the solution to a different problem. It functions like a loop. Students are paired (or in a trio) and move from problem to problem solving it, identifying the solution in the room, and then working that problem. Students are finished when they return to their original problem.
Why I love Scavenger Hunts?
Scavenger hunts are my go to activity for a unit review. I love that I can mix up the content, and since there is a full page, I can include word problems. Aside from that, there are some other sneaky tricks that I get to utilize:
- Fairly easy to prep. Determine which problems, work them out and then organize them on the paper. Be careful to make the loop work correctly or you will have students ending early without completing all of the problems.
- Self checking. Students immediately know if they have the correct answer or not and can rework it before moving on.
- Easy for the teacher to assist. Often times it is obvious which problem(s) can be roadblocks, so I would position myself near that area of the classroom to help students.
- Perfect for multistep word problem practice.
- If you don’t finish them all, totally okay.
Downsides the Scavenger Hunts?
Students will eventually catch on that it is a loop, so you have to keep an eye out for that. Also, since it is a “move at your own pace” activity without a timer, occasionally multiple groups will end up at the same question.
Overall, I love using scavenger hunts and my students did too.
I have always found the key to student engagement and buy-in is two fold: a relationship and a relevant classroom. These three math review games will help with both aspects.