# How do I make middle school math fun?

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by geoCAD, Feb 8, 2008.

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Feb 8, 2008

I just wrote so much in a new post but it didn't make it through so here I go again. Sorry if this later duplicates.

I just finished watching a few of the Miss Toliver short videos. If you are not aware, Miss Toliver is (or was, I'm not sure if she is still teaching or alive) a middle school math teacher in NYC somewhere (Harlem I think). The videos were so inspiring, I had to show them to my students.

After the videos I asked my students about simularities between those other students and ours, and Miss Toliver and myself. I'm sad to say that my students think I do not make math fun enough like Miss Toliver apparently does.

So my question to all of you middle school teachers is this. How can I make math more fun? What experiments can you recommend that may follow some of the national standards strands? I would greatly appreciative of fun experiments and games for my kids.

After the videos, I felt obligated to try something so we spent the period working in groups of two making various shapes with the tangrams.

~G

3. ### mmswmModerator

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Feb 8, 2008

Some of my kids' favorite activities:

Holiday budget project: pick a holiday, figure out the types of expenses involved, have the kids present something (poster, video, skit) that uses percentages, decimals, operations with integers, simple equations and inequalities in deciding how much to spend on what.

Probability project: This is like a science project, where they have to come up with a question and answer it, but with the constraint that it must be a probability related question and they have to use a food item (M&M's and skittles are the favorites). Then they have to do the science fair type presentation with graphs and charts and such.

Conversion Displays: Pick a set of conversion factors and build a robot that illustrates the progression from the smallest to the largest unit (volume, length, mass, either english or metric system...pick one).

Design a bus system (systems of equations--must be basic or they don't get it).

classroom "bank" where students can bounce checks if they screw up on balancing their accounts (integers).

In general, teach to your personality, I'm a joker and rather physical...I like to jump up and down and be a little melodramatic.

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Feb 10, 2008

You are you, and Miss Toliver is Miss Toliver. You can't be exactly like her. You're also a new teacher, whereas she has been at this for years. You will get better with experience just as I will. Just gradually come up with a few ideas to add to your bag of tricks, and you will be doing your own thing that is as goos as miss toliver's if not better. Just keep learning and having fun. That's what teaching is all about. For example, this is my second year teaching, and my first year teaching math. Right now, I am making my mistakes, coming up with different ideas on how to present it next time, different activities, etc. I am learning not to let somebody else, who is an awesome teacher get me down. Like you, I see these great teachers and see these videos and it makes me depressed that I'm not like that. However, we gotta realize that these people didn't get like this overnight. It took them years of making the same mistakes that we are, and figuring out different ways to present things before before they were as good as they are now. Just hang in there. Don't compare yourself to other teachers.

5. ### mmswmModerator

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Feb 10, 2008

That's really good advice terrence and I agree wholeheartedly. That's what I was trying to say when I said teach to your personality. You did a much better job.

6. ### cheeryteacherEnthusiast

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Feb 10, 2008

I agree with the advice above. You should only add things that you are comfortable with. Every day in math class can be full of projects if you are comfortable with that. I don't know very many first year teachers that are. Wait-I don't know any first year teachers that are. I'm sure you put a lot of thought into the structure of your class and whatever you decide to add should compliment that. Think about how much time you would like to spend on any projects, whether its one week per quarter or 2 days per unit, or whatever you choose. Then look for activities that will complement your teaching style and curriculum.

The knack for adding meaningful projects will develop with time. For example, I taught for a few years at a school that was supposed to be have an arts infused curriculum, and I could never come up with any art projects. Luckily I was on a team where one of the teachers was quite creative. I've since left that school and I am infusing art into the core curriculum on my own way more than I ever thought I could.

7. ### ~~Pam~~Companion

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Feb 18, 2008

I teach 7th grade math and there are some topics that are difficult to make fun, but I have found that class projects that students can relate to make the topic fun to most of them. Here are some of the projects we have worked on in class:

1. Integers: a local bank provided bank registers and fake checks and students had to make daily entries as part of their class warm up. I also used the stock market wherein students had to pick a stock from a list I provided and daily I would provide the real closing prices from the day prior and students track whether their stock made or lost money over a period of time.

2. Data collection and analysis: students chose an animal from the endangered species list and had to collect data about the animal, look at what is being done to save the animal and make a prediction on whether the animal will survive. This information was compiled in a Powerpoint presentation and made to the class.

3. Geometric constructions: students had to follow a series of directions on a map of Europe to find Carmen Sandiego. Students also created a "Constructions for Dummies" book which all worked on feverishly because they could use it during an upcoming test.

4. Coordinate Graphs: students created their own dot-to-dot and had to exchange with a partner, complete the graph of their partner and then have their partner determine if they followed the instructions (ordered pair) accurately. They then rated their partner's instructions (ordered pair).

For my students, long projects don't keep their attention. The projects that work for me take 1-3 class periods of 45-60 mins each. I then post their work on the walls of the hall outside my classroom and in the classroom. They are generally competitive and want their work to look good. As for my students, they run the gamut of gifted to very low and not many in the middle.

There are a lot of good websites out there with really good ideas, but it does take time to navigate them and find ones to try.

Hang in there and good luck!!

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Feb 18, 2008

Lots of great ideas there, mmswm and Pam! Do you find that your kids apply the concepts well from one project to another, or just to general problem solving?

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Feb 26, 2008

A good set of books you might wanna check out is Brad Fulton's books. He has some great activities. If it's any consolation, I haven't done any projects this year. This is my first year teaching math, and I'm literally just going by the book. However, I am coming up with bunch of ideas AFTER I teach the lesson (of course, that's how it works!) Next year, I'm going to start abstractly, so they only understand the concept, then, we will work on the steps of solving math problems pertaining to the concept. I am also going to incorporate graphic organizers for their notes, and interactive notebooks.

10. ### Chicken_SoupNew Member

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Feb 28, 2008

The "make math fun" movement has bothered me for years. Relevant and interesting, yes, but M&M's, giving candy, prizes, rewards, classroom economies, etc.. can distract from the content, turn your class into a carnival, and drain your time and money. My point is:

The "fun" in math is in successfully solving problems.

When students ask me the famous question, "why do we do math?" I answer them, "to relax." And I mean it. There is a unique satisfaction experienced after solving a problem. When students feel this, it raises their confidence, and that's a good feeling. It might be the only confidence boost they get all day. They were able to do that math problem.

So my answer to your question is: don't contort your class in the name of making it "fun." Math is beautiful in and of itself; it doesn't need a cheap paint job. Instead, focus on making them successful in the basics. They will reward you with obedience and peace.

To achieve this, here's the pattern that I've found to work well:

1. Demonstrate it three times.
2. Put three more problems on the board and call a student up to present for a bonus point.
3. Give them problems to work on together in pairs.
4. Give them homework on the same types of problems.
5. The next day, give them a warm-up just like what you taught the previous day.
6. On the quiz and test, give them similar problems.

Hope this helps.

Sincerely,
Soup

11. ### mmswmModerator

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Feb 28, 2008

Upsadaisy, I find that my kids retain the problem solving skills from project to project. Each project they turn in gets more complex in the thinking skills presented. My colleagues in other disiplines say that those skills spill over into their classes, but still, I work with inner-city kids, so they have a LONG way to go to catch up to their suburban peers, but they're getting there.

12. ### shelly07Rookie

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Mar 6, 2008

I am also a new teacher. I feel very inadequate at times when I visit other veteran teachers. Even more so when I hear my students say so and so is so much fun.

TO be honest, I too am at times bored with my lesson. However, how do you make anything fun. What is fun for one may not be fun for all. One thing I have observed is that ALL of my kids like to talk, not to me but to observed. So, I work with what I have, I let them talk. I let them figure things out for themselves. I instruct very little and then give them group work that allow "accountable talking". They enjoy talking about the topic at hand so much, they do not even realize that they are working. They love to discover things for themselves. Usually the group work is inquire based.

They, of course do not like presenting their info, so I have them present to eachother. Groups sharewoth other groups.

I am running out of activities and want to keep it fresh. I have not seen the videos that you talk about. What specifically did Ms. T do that was so much fun?

Shelly

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Mar 9, 2008

When you give homework, for each problem have them draw smiley faces and color them whenever they answer a problem.

It will let then focus on the math problem and kids love to draw and color so they must do the prob in order to earn the right to color.

14. ### BrendanFanatic

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Mar 9, 2008

I think it is important to make things fun, as long as they are learning the material just as well as the the not so fun ways. Math is hated by too many kids and I think the only way to make it more popular (which will result in more math based professionals, higher math scores compared to other countries, and maybe for once us passing Asia in this area) is to make it a fun class that relates to the students. Honestly, I am shocked too see this is not even attempted by the teachers at my school.

15. ### shelly07Rookie

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Mar 12, 2008

My students seem to enjoy group work the most. They do not want to listen to me. SO I follow the workshop model. I do little talking and they learn by doing. What I have a hard time with is balancing between the group learning and my direct instruction. Let's face it, group work can be time consuming. How can I continue this culture and still get through all of the material that the state standards call for?

16. ### BudakaCohort

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Mar 13, 2008

Brendan, I will point out that in most Asian countries they don't make any attempt at making math or any class fun for that matter. School is very serious business.

17. ### shelly07Rookie

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Mar 14, 2008

Budaka

I haved 6th grader myself. I always talk to her about my lesson plans for my 6th grade amth calss. She told me the other day that she wished she had a fun math teacher. Her math teacher is very traditional. My daughter's class does no group work. The teacher teaches and the students practice. Althoughit sounds boring, her class has performed excellent on the Math state test in the past. THere is something to be said about tradition. However, my daughter is disliking Math. I do think that some of us are obssessed with making fun that we forget that they are there to leanr and it is our job to teach them.

18. ### mmswmModerator

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Mar 15, 2008

Shelly, that's why it's so important to know the difference between fun for the sake of fun, and making the material less boring. I use a combination approach. My students come into class asking if we're going to be doing anything fun and I'll be honest with them. Sometimes I have an exciting activity planned, and sometimes its a boring day. There's a need for the boring stuff. There's just no way to do without basic instruction and still have a successfull class. My philosophy is to use the activities to strengthen the skills they have learned in a way that amuses them. Once they figure out that there has to be a certain compentency level to do the activities, they work hard at the "boring" stuff so they can do the fun stuff.

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Mar 16, 2008

I'm biased. Personally, I think all math is fun. When kids ask if we are going to do anything fun today, my reply is, "We do everyday!"

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Mar 17, 2008

:up::up::up:

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