The thing about teaching is that every day is a new lesson, a new topic, and in general a large amount of prep work. Some days, class consists of a matching activity that has been differentiated and laminated! #winning There are other days when I need something quick and easy to implement. **Today’s post is all about how to turn any worksheet into an engaging easy math activity with little or no preparation time!**

# Turn worksheetS into EASY MATH activitIES

## 1. Tic-Tac-Toe

- Prep Time: 15 seconds
- Materials: Whiteboard and Expo marker

First, assign one half of the classroom as Xs and the other half Os. The goal is simple: get 3 in a row before the opposing team does. **I sketch 4 to 5 tic-tac-toe boards on the whiteboard and explain to students that after their table finishes an allotted number of problems, one person from their table can place an X or an O. **

In order to place the X or O, they have to be correct, they have to have shown their math strategies, they have to include __________ (units, formulas, etc), and everyone at their table must have it complete. They show me the symbol for done, I come and check, and if everything looks good, they can come to the board and place an X/O. They compete on one game board until there is a win, and then students will play on the next game board.

## 2. Connect Four

- Prep Time: 30 seconds
- Materials: Whiteboard and Sticky Notes in Varying Shades

I was scrolling Instagram one day and came across Miss 5th’s post. You can see that the concept is super simple —** be the first team to connect 4 sticky notes in a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. **My students loved it, especially when they could block! This is similar to tic-tac-toe but it allows for more than two teams.

**To manage the excitement and some of the behavior, I would create handicaps for teams who were too rowdy.** Example: if more than 1 student left their seat to move a sticky note, then I would remove one of their sticky notes (my choice) or I would add a sticky note to another team’s. Using these types of tactics only has to happen once or twice before students internalize the expectations. Before you know it, the students who struggle the most are the ones policing other teams!

## 3. 100s Grid

- Time: 1 Minute
- Materials: Either print or project a 100s grid

This was my secret to review days! Review days tended to be a struggle for my students (and myself). I had 90 minute blocks, so playing a game for that entire time would get a little wild, but I needed something to keep students engaged the entire time — enter the hundreds grid.

For the first half of class, I would allow students to work together. The second half of class would be completely silent as students needed to practice independently (they were having a test the next day after all). This game worked throughout both collaborative and independent work time.

**How it works:** After students completed 3-4 number of problems, I would check their work. If all of the problems were correct, the student would sign their initials/name in one of the boxes in the hundreds grid. If not, I told them which problems to go fix and they wouldn’t sign the grid. **The more accurate and quickly students were working, the more chances they had to get their initials on the hundreds grid. At the end of class, I would use a random number generator to pick 5 or so numbers. The students whose initials were inside of the chosen number boxes would get to pick out a prize. **

## 4. Magnet Race

- Prep Time: 1 minute
- Materials: whiteboard, number line, two different magnets

To set it up, you need to either draw a number line on the board or project one on a whiteboard. This activity is fashioned much like tic-tac-toe. Students have to complete a few problems with the criteria for success that I have explained, then as tables finish the allotted number of problems, I check their work and tell them to ‘make a move.’

The 2 magnets begin at 0. **As students make a move, they can choose to move their team’s magnet in the positive direction two spaces or they can move the opposing team’s magnet one space in the negative direction.** Whichever team has their magnet at a greater value by the time the timer goes off, wins.

**Get a free vertical number line here.**

## 5. Grafitti!

- Prep Time: 2 minutes
- Materials: butcher paper and markers

Cover tables with brightly colored butcher paper. Then, provide various markers to students. Project math problems on the board, and have students complete problems grafitti style on the paper. ** This allows students to feel like they are doing something really special when actually all they are doing is math! **Who am I kidding? Math is really special! Butcher paper is almost always readily in stock in the teacher work room, which makes this an inexpensive easy math activity too!

Many of my students will write larger since they have lots more space, and many will even incorporate colors into their strategies. It also makes checking work easier because you can see it by just walking by. To be honest, I have not done this activity in my classroom, but my fellow math teacher (shout out Ms. Henry!) has had success, so I plan to try it ASAP. She used it during independent practice to prepare for STAAR.

## 6. Digital Activities

- Prep Time: Varies
- Materials: Devices

Since many of these activities are not exactly social distance friendly, I did want to include some activities that are highly engaging and collaborative in some capacity. Kahoot and Quizizz require some out of class prep time that the above suggestions do not have, but it is little price to pay for engaged and excited students. If you are distance learning, both platforms allow you to send “games” out to students to play in a one-on-one setting. You can see Kahoot’s page on distance learning here. Quizizz’s blog post on distance learning can be found here.

We also have digital activities that are engaging! Check them out here.

Do you have any go to easy math activities? What are your students’ favorites? I would love to hear your other ideas for how to turn any worksheet into an activity.

*Maneuvering the Middle has been publishing blog posts for 6 years! This post was originally published in May of 2017. It has been revamped for relevancy and accuracy. *

The Ardent Teacher says

I absolutely love these ideas! I taught middle school for 8 years and now I am teaching high school. I know my middle schoolers would have loved these and I have a feeling my high schoolers will as well 🙂 These will work perfectly for preparing for finals!

One fun review game I play is called “pass code”. It’s similar to heads up (the Ellen Degenerous game). I have a kid stand in front of my whiteboard in the front of the room and I write a vocabulary word or concept over of his/her head. Their classmates then raise their hands to give them a one word clue (one word clues work best and really makes them think). The guesser at the front of the room calls on students until they feel prepared to give a guess. I don’t limit how many times they can guess (although after a few I tend offer a full sentence clue). The last person to give a one word clue is the next person to go up and guess. If they don’t feel comfortable, they can have someone go up in their place. Finally, to make it even easier on me, I will sometimes let the last guesser pick the word for the next guesser. So, I only have to get the game started and then it keeps going on its own.

Have game-playing!

Nancy says

What great ideas! I love the speed date idea, a great way for struggling students to get peer tutoring as well!

Noelle Pickering says

Thanks, Nancy!

Jennifer says

I use Atari flashback. I assign a problem to the teams. If both teams get it right they play each other. If only one team has it right they play me (Maze Craze was one of my favorites growing up in the students can’t beat me!)

Similarly, instead of Atari, sometimes I use tanagrams. Teams that get a problem correct get 20 seconds to work on completing the tanagram picture their team selected from my poster.

Noelle Pickering says

I love these ideas! Anything to mix it up and provide some competition!

Courtney says

These ideas are great. I can use them with my basic level high school students. 🙂

Noelle Pickering says

Thanks, Courtney!

jennifer stockard says

Great idea’s …really like the graffiti and tic tac toe…I keep my students arranged in groups, but this allows a little more movement…Thanks

Francis says

Noelle,

A couple other things I’ve done in my classroom to make a worksheet into an activity are to have post a problem(s) and have student copy the problem onto a piece of paper. When they are finished they either make a snowball (by crumpling the paper) or can make a paper airplane and stand up. Once everyone is done they then get to throw the snowball/paper airplane. Then they retrieve a paper to check the problem a peer did.

Tyne Brack says

This sounds so fun!

Stacie says

Great ideas! I like to do musical chairs math. I play music and the students walk around the room and find a chair to work in. Key is they can only do 2 math problems in one seat. Then they have to jump up to find the next empty seat. They love it and they’re just doing their regular WB for the day!

Tyne Brack says

That is brilliant! I’m going to try this when I return from the summer! Thanks for sharing!

Brittany Brown says

My students love the puzzle activity we do. I normally do groups of about 4. Each person has a role: reader, runner, writer (everyone writes but this person makes sure everyone is writing), on task person, and puzzle maker if there are 5 people. I have the worksheet printed off in a different color for each group so we can keep the pieces together easier. I cut up the page into pieces so each problem is on its own. The runner, (or person getting new questions and puzzle pieces) comes and gets a problem and takes it back for them to work together. Once everyone has an answer, the runner brings it back to me and if they get it correct, they get a new problem and a puzzle piece. The objective is the finish the puzzle. They love this!

Tyne Brack says

I love this! In fact, I am going to try this in my classroom. Thank you for sharing!

B. Bryant says

I’m also going to try this in my class! Thank you ????

Chris says

I use something similar to the graffiti example. An idea from another teacher (shout out to E. Willard) Write a problem on their desk with dry erase markers. Then let the students solve their problem. I can see their answers as I walk around, if it is correct I give them a baby wipe to clean their desk. (Double duty)

Janine says

I love these ideas! Does anyone have ways to do something like these with social studies or science?

@nielsons_newsstand says

I just organized a “Turkey Tic-Tac-Toe” for our regular text book practice page. It was STELLAR. The students were soooo engaged and they were just doing their normal math. I made sure that ALL students were showing their work before I would allow them to place a pilgrim hat or pie on their space. It was a great way to go into our Thanksgiving Break! Thank you!

P.s. Here is the link to my quickly-made Turkey board, if anyone is interested! https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1tfxUKig4wOy1NRB4wXdJcnqeXiRqgTqIngP1C8QzkgI/edit?usp=sharing