# Ideas for making math "fun"

Discussion in 'General Education' started by Ms.Holyoke, Sep 9, 2018.

1. ### Ms.HolyokeDevotee

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Sep 9, 2018

I'm looking for ideas for making my first unit of math more engaging for my students. The first unit of 6th grade is so, so boring (decimal operations, long division, etc.) It's the easiest unit and it's basically just computation. I'm struggling to find ways to make it more engaging than just a practice worksheet. I am doing a bunch of worksheets but I want to do some things that are a little bit more fun.

A few things I was thinking were...
-I will have solved multiplication problems on chart paper around the room and students will travel around the room and decide if it's correct or not.
-Group Activity: give a group cut up problems, they solve each problem independently and compare answers. I like this idea but I see that it might be frustrating for kids who work more quickly. However, my 6th graders are really good at working together. I credit it to the great work that their elementary teachers must have done with them
-Scholar Scribe for long division: This would only be for two problems, but kids would work in partners and one person would be the scholar and one person would be the scribe.
-For multiplication tomorrow, I'm planning on having kids work in groups to make a poster demonstrating two strategies to multiply the decimals .008 and 7.2.
-Maybe a Jeopardy Review game on Friday? I am not allowed to give any food for prizes but the kids might still enjoy it.

I have some ideas for other units I will be teaching, but I find our first unit super boring!

Last edited: Sep 9, 2018
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3. ### MrsCMultitudinous

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Sep 9, 2018

My students love this dice game (I hope the instructions make sense). I play with the class as a whole to start, then the students are able to play in small groups or with a partner.

I have them copy the following into their notebooks or onto paper:
__ . ___ x ___ . ___ = target number (give them a target number)
Roll the dice (I use a 10 sided dice) 4 times; after each roll, the students put the number into any one of the spaces. After all spaces have been filled in, the student who is able to get closest to the target number wins.
For example:
___ . ___ x ___ . ___ = 10
(numbers rolled: 9, 1, 5, 1)
Closest to target number would be: 9.1 x 1.1

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Sep 9, 2018

I know you mentioned in other threads problems with behaviors. My general strategy would be saving the fun until the behaviors are nailed down.

5. ### Ms.HolyokeDevotee

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Sep 9, 2018

This is a great idea! I am actually ordering dice with a \$250 stipend from my college scholarship (along with some other math manipulatives...please let me know if you have any suggestions!! I am planning on ordering two colored counters, 3-d shapes, and dice but I still have \$150 to spend on math manipulatives. My school has geoboards but I might get some in case I switch schools. )
I will keep this in mind for a before break activity when I get my dice.

6. ### Ms.HolyokeDevotee

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Sep 9, 2018

Fun might not be the right word...but maybe engaging? I figure that the more engaged the kids are, then the less behavior problems I will have. However, I am planning on having alternate activities for kids who cannot participate. I do not forsee difficulties with two of my groups, but one of them may struggle. For example, for the find the mistake activity, I will write the problems on a worksheet and kids who are not behaving appropriately can do the same work in their seat.

I think you're right about the Jeopardy game though...I will save that for later.

Last edited: Sep 9, 2018
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7. ### Leaborb192Enthusiast

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Sep 9, 2018

What about technology? Do you have any available? If so, utilize Quizlet, Kahoot, Quizizz, etc. Also you can create all kinds of things for the kids to do in Google. Any opportunities for students to TALK and MOVE are more engaging than worksheets. Check out any "cooperative grouping'' strategies from Spencer Kagan like Quiz - Quiz - Trade.

I also utilized "Whip around'' where I pose a math problem and have students stand back to back with whiteboards and then "Whip around'' to show each other the responses. They can then critique each other's work, or wait for whole group review, and then they move to a new partner. They get opportunities to work with everyone and keep moving around the room.
I do applaud your efforts to make math more engaging than just completing practice problems on worksheets. Unfortunately that is how math is taught and many students just shut down (me included.)

There's also matamoscas, or the "flyswatter game'' where students go whacking away at the right answer with fly swatters. It's so versatile and can be used for everything!

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8. ### Ms.HolyokeDevotee

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Sep 9, 2018

^
I would use whiteboards but I don't have markers for the kids yet. I got some for very cheap on NAEIR (20 for \$2!) but it takes a few weeks to ship.

My students really liked stations around the room. I just put problems on sheet protectors around the room and they walked around with a partner and could check their work with answers on the back. However, with 34 kids walking around the room, it can get a bit loud but the kids enjoyed it!! Two classes did well and one did not. However, I wasn't clear with expectations for them so I will do better next time.

Last edited: Sep 9, 2018
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9. ### Leaborb192Enthusiast

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Sep 10, 2018

But I like LOUD if it's "noisy, but busy,'' that's a philosophy I have. The students should be up moving and engaging in meaningful work. There are days I dread subbing because it's just babysitting the kids as they sit quietly, desks in rows, completing worksheets. There's a time and place for this (e.g. tests), but it shouldn't be a normal occurrence, especially year after year. I think this is why so many middle school students I work with "hate'' school. It's because they've had very uninspired experiences with it. I remember one time I subbed in a 5th grade class and I wanted them to take out whiteboards. They just looked at me. I asked, "You do have them in the room right?" And they said, "Yeah, I think we have some over there.'' I instructed them to go get them, which was a mess, because it wasn't a procedure they were used to. But when I used them for that math block they were so thrilled at the change of pace. But it's good for me as an assessment tool "Show me your answers,'' and they can be up out of their seats moving around. We switched classes and I'll never forget one kid's reaction when he walked in. He just looked at his desk and said, "What are these?" I said, "Whiteboards.'' He said, "Oh, why are they on our desk?''

They were just so used to sitting in their desks and just doing workbook pages that the idea of doing anything else was unfathomable. And sadly their actual teacher didn't even teach; he just showed them the answers after they had to learn the lessons themselves. It was quite sad. I remember one kid in the class told her mom (a teacher) that "Wow, I actually learned math with him.''

It was hard with some kids because they were used to the ''lazy'' way of teaching and were sort of thrown off by all of the movement and collaboration, so I got some resistance, but I think had they been instructed in that way from day 1 they would have been really into it. Some kids just don't "like'' stuff because they're not used to it. And it's sad if their entire math experience is just completing worksheets while sitting at their desks. That's a really lame experience.

10. ### futuremathsprofEnthusiast

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Sep 10, 2018

Woah, many of these ideas are AMAZING. I need to chat with elementary teachers more often because my high school students would love to do some of these activities!

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11. ### Leaborb192Enthusiast

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Keeping small children (with very short attention spans) focused and engaged is what we do!
This is why every teacher has their niche and some just aren't meant to work with the little ones.

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12. ### Ms.HolyokeDevotee

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Sep 10, 2018

I'm also perfectly fine with productive "loudness." My issue is that the loudness in one of my classes is NOT productive during stations for my challenging class. Hopefully we will work on this

Last edited: Sep 10, 2018

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Sep 11, 2018

1. Put a large grid on the board with answers in each block. Have kids go up and select a block or blocks as their own by initialing. You call out problems. If they initialed block is the answer, kid gets a point. Or you can vary it by having them each choose 4 blocks and trying to get bingo.

2. Group into teams. Each team gets a piece of paper with may 6 or so algebraic answers across the top and a list of 5 problems underneath. The groups have different sets of answers/problems. Each group solves their 5 problems with answers found at the top of their paper and puts their answers on the board. You need a key to check the answers. First group to get all correct wins.

3. Play algebra bingo on paper or white boards. Either make the boards on a website or place answers on white board and each child chooses placement of the answers. You call out algebraic terms, equations, exponents, whatever you are working on.

I used all of these with success. Of course, I did give candy, even to middle schoolers, for wins.

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Sep 11, 2018

I taught with games every day for quite a few years.

Pico/Fermi/Bagels
You pick a mystery number (3 digit), don't tell students. They take turns guessing 3-digit numbers. You respond with Pico (correct digit in wrong place), Fermi (correct digit in correct place), Bagels (no correct digit). Play continues until someone gets the mystery number. Don't use any repeating digits unless you really want to increase the difficulty. When we played, I recorded their guesses and my responses on the board as we played.

Pig
Roll a die to get a Pig number. This is the unlucky number that you don't want to roll. Students stand up, meaning they are in the game. You roll the die and students keep a cumulative total of the points. At any time, a student may choose to sit down and keep their accumulated points. Before you make a roll, a student says, "Sitting with ____". If they have the wrong total, they lose all the points. You record who sat and what their points total. When the Pig number is rolled, all those still standing lose all their points. The highest point total after 3 rounds is the winner. You get a different pig number for each round.

Last Box
Make a large grid on the board with the number of boxes equal to the number of students. Place answers to problems (any subject at all) in the boxes, one answer per box. Call students randomly to select a box and put their initials in the corner of their chosen box. Then, you call out problems and the students have to decide if their box answers to question. If so, they raise their hand and say their answer. If theirs is the correct answer, they must erase their box and they are out. Continue on until there is only one box remaining and that is the winner.

Review game for any subject
Shhh! This isn't really a game, but don't tell the kids. Split up the class into 4 groups and have them sit together in 4 locations in the room. Give them a short time to study notes or a handout or something. Then, you go from group to group and ask a question. Only one member of the group may answer for the group. They can consult for 30 seconds before answering. You keep the score, one point per correct answer.

Use the Numbers
Kids gather in small groups. Each group gets a card with 6 (or however many you want) numbers across the top. Those numbers are the ones which will be used to fill in blanks in math problems that you have written on the card. Each group's card is different but all are at the same level of difficulty. Numbers at the top may or may not be re-used in the problems. Each group has a numbered list on the board. One member of each group will go up and record an answer on the board as soon as they have it. When a group finishes all the questions, you check to see if they are correct. If they are not all correct, you can tell them which one is wrong. The other groups keep working until you announce that a group is the winner.

15. ### heyheyRookie

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Sep 11, 2018

If you're looking to engage in a whole-class discussion, I would recommend talking points. Have the kids in their groups and provide them with a few statements about the topic. (Ex. "It's not important to learn how to add with decimals.") Each kid in the group says whether they agree, disagree or are in the middle on the statement and why (this is the most important think to look out for when circulating) and they keep track of their results. Then when you bring it back to the whole class, you can take a tally of the whole class' data and ask for students to share out their response and justification.

Middle schoolers just love to tell us what they think and why their thoughts are so much better then everybody else This provides an appropriate context for them to do this.