Math Games

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I have previously written about Hot Seat, which is a game I sometimes use to review before math tests. For some quick, non-content related games, I sometimes use some of the following sites:

Math Playground – There are some content based games for lower grades, but I like the Logic Games section of the website.

Terry Stickels – Terry has written many puzzle books, but there are also an assortment of puzzles on his website.

Pencil ‘n Paper Puzzles – There are a wide variety of puzzles on this site … love this site.

Erich’s Puzzle Place – Another good site with a wide variety of puzzles.

KrazyDad – This is my favourite site for printable Sudoku’s, Kakuro’s, and other similar games.

Have fun playing!

Making Ends Meet

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Husband who broke his foot + car in the shop all week = missed #MTBos SundayFunday blog deadline

One of my favourite math tasks is a financial planning activity for my grade 8 students titled “Making Ends Meet”. Unfortunately we did not get to complete it last year due to time constraints, and so the version that I am sharing is from the previous year.

In this task, students are given the role of a recent university graduate just entering the work force. Each student is given a job or career (picked randomly out of a jar) and must determine how to pay bills with a starting salary for that job or career. In order to prepare for this assignment, I researched starting salaries for those fields in Canadian dollars. Students begin by calculating take home pay after taxes (my students needed assistance with this step). They then use the net salary to determine a monthly budget for food, housing, utilities, transportation, medical expenses, miscellaneous expenses, and savings. Once students have completed the budget and presented their work in an orderly and logical manner, they are presented with an unexpected problem. I have created a whole list of problems, and they are variations of this:

“You were filling the bath when the phone rang. A friend’s car broke down and she needed you to pick her up. You left immediately to go help her, but you forgot about the bathtub. When you returned, there was water everywhere and the floor was ruined. Unfortunately, insurance does not cover this type of flooding. The repair bills were $750. Calculate and explain how this will affect your budget.”

There are 19 problems of this type on my list, and the students get a random problem by picking one out of a jar. I cannot share the full problem list here, as I don’t want my students to have access to them.

My students have told me that this was one of their favourite assignments and it made them aware about real life expenses. Hopefully I can fit it in this year, as it takes quite some time to complete. You can access the document here. I am happy to hear suggestions as to how to improve this activity.

Posters for the Math Classroom

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Once again, I have Sara Carter to thank for many of the wonderful posters that I have put up in my classroom. Two of the posters that I put up were her ‘Types of Errors’ and ‘Always Show Your Thinking’ posters. A few of my math colleagues were in my classroom and we began a discussion about these posters, and as a result of the discussion we made a few changes:

  • We changed the word ‘parentheses’ to ‘brackets’. This is more of a USA vs Canada thing. (Similarly, for order of operations we use BEDMAS instead of PEMDAS.)
  • We decided to take out the word ‘failure’ under Problem Solving and we adjusted some of the descriptors for that section.

We discussed the fact that we like the ‘Types of Errors’ poster and think it is important, and we agreed that it reflects the types of errors that we point out to our students. However, we felt that we also wanted to focus on positive things the students can do to achieve success. We decided to put up a new series of posters under the ‘Types of Errors’ poster. These posters will be framed in the positive, with the heading ‘Aim for Success’. The posters are as follows:

  • Always Show Your Thinking (Sarah already did a fabulous job with this one, no changes were necessary.)
  • Read and Follow Instructions Carefully
  • Show Your Work Vertically
  • Line Up Your Equal Signs
  • Explain Your Understanding
  • Check Your Work
  • Write Neatly
  • Ask Questions
  • Work Collaboratively
  • Solve Using Multiple Strategies

Did we miss anything essential? It may end up being too many posters, but we will live with it for a bit and see how it works. You can download the Word and PDF versions of the posters here.

Bulletin Board Letters…Easy as A, B, C

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For a long time I either bought lettering pieces that needed to be punched out, or I struggled with Word Art to try to make fun signs and lettering for my bulletin boards. Then last year I stumbled upon a website called Instant Display, and it has brought a new element of “wow” to my bulletin board displays. Under the top banner you will see something about ordering, but there are an abundance of free downloads on this site. Explore the lettering sets for theme related lettering, available in capital and lower case letters as well as numbers. You can either cut these out, or you can copy and paste the letters within a document to make your signs. The subject areas give a variety of banners and other bulletin board display signs, and the “other” section has many generic classroom decorations.

Have fun exploring!

Sara Van Der Werf’s 5×5 Game

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In looking for fun games to engage my students, I came across Sara Van Der Werf‘s 5×5 Game. She has explained the game very well in her blog post, and so I suggest you read about it there. Please make sure to follow her sharing request for this game. I have made a Smartboard Notebook file to use with this game, and you can access it here. In my Notebook file, I have added light blue squares to write the sums, and I have added thinking questions for the students to consider in between the rounds. I will still use her student handout template which can be accessed in her blog post.

Thank you for sharing, Sara!

Hot Seat!

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I like to play review games in the classroom, and one of these is called Hot Seat. In this game, the class is divided into teams of 3 or 4 students. The desks are arranged so that the students can sit with their group members, and then there are also desks separated and lined up side-by-side, either at the front or at the back of the classroom. These are the “hot seats”. The number of hot seats should match the number of student teams. I usually separate the hot seats with dividers, but you can also physically separate them to prevent students from seeing the answers of those next to them. Once the teams are made (I usually arrange the teams), I let the students determine a team name. Once this organization is completed, the game begins.

Each round of the game requires the students to answer a math question. One student from the team is selected to be in the hot seat, and the other students in the team remain at the team desks. The first question is revealed and all students work on the answer. The team member in the hot seat works alone, and the other team members work together. I actually require these team members to each try the question on their own sheet of paper, and then compare answers with the group and come to consensus. I give a designated amount of time for the students to answer the question, dependent on the complexity of the question. At the end of the time period I circulate around the room to determine who has the correct answer. I keep a sheet on a clipboard to record results as I walk around. If the student in the hot seat answered correctly, then 2 points are earned for the team. If the rest of the team answered correctly, then 1 point is earned for the team. In any round, a team can earn up to 3 points. I usually walk around as the students are still working and before the time has run out to see their progress. If there are early finishers then I can check their work. However, I don’t reveal if their answers are correct until the time is up. This prevents students from trying to copy the answers of others, as they do not know which answers were correct or incorrect. When the time is up I first take up the question with the whole class, and then we assign the scores for that round on the whiteboard. For each subsequent round, the students take turns sitting in the hot seat. I like this model because I find that it requires all students to be active participants, while adding an element of competition.

I work at an IB school, and our rubrics are leveled 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8. Sometimes I organize the Hot Seat game into these levels, which they see on their tests, and other times I have been less formal and just given random questions. I have shared two of my Notebook Hot Seat files – one for Grade 7 proportional relationships and one for Grade 8 numeracy. You can access them here.

Need a Break?

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I have been incredibly inspired by Sarah Carter @mathequalslove. She has so many amazing resources that she generously shares. As we prepare for and begin the new school year, I also want to be part of the giving community. I have been scouring the #MTBoS and other sources for “one off” activities that I can pull out and use at any moment. Our school is moving from 40 minute to 60 minute periods, and I know that I will need to incorporate new strategies to engage students for these longer periods of time. I want to build a collection of games, tasks, and activities that can be used either to introduce the class, to end the class, or as a brief interlude in the middle.

Pentanim is a game that comes from the NRICH database. It is a short logic game that can be used as a break in any subject. I have created student game boards should you want students to play in pairs with bingo chips, as well as a Notebook file to play this game as a class. When playing as a class, students could take turns, or you could still have two students play in a match against each other. One reminder, do not save the Notebook file before closing. This will allow it to open in proper format the next time you want to play.

You can access the files here.

 

Classroom Management – Homework and Lates

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At my school, we only take digital attendance at the beginning of the day. After that, teachers are expected to take attendance at the beginning of each class to ensure that our students are present, but that information is not entered into the digital system. Instead, a designated student carries an attendance clipboard from class to class. To help promote good learning skills, each teacher is also required to keep track of students that are late to class, and to follow up with those that are habitually late. I am diligent with this recording, as I believe that students will not follow through with expectations if their teachers do not require this of them. If they know that their late arrival and homework completion is tracked and that they will be held accountable, then they are more likely to be diligent and put effort into these areas.

In previous years, I have recorded this information in my planbook. In addition I have also recorded the names of students who have not completed homework, and I follow up with them, as well. However, I have always found it tedious to both record the information and to aggregate it afterwards for use in report cards or conferences with students and parents, especially considering that I teach a variety of subjects and middle school classes, and often teach the same students for different subjects.

I have been reading many blogs over the summer, and many of these blogs have explored the use of G Suite products in the classroom. We do not use Google Classroom at our school, but we are avid users of many of the other G Suite products. As such, I am surprised that it has taken me so long to realize how to use these products to simplify my record keeping.

I have now developed a Google Form to collect data on students who are late to class or who do not complete homework. Originally I was going to create two separate forms, but that seemed like too much work to keep both of those tabs open and to insert data in two different places. My form asks only for five pieces of information:

  1. Student name – I used a short answer response format for this area
  2. Type – I am still working on the proper name for this data, but I have included a dropdown menu that allows me to choose either “Homework” or “Late”
  3. Date – For this data I have used the “date” response option, which allows me to click the correct data in a calendar view
  4. Subject – Here I will enter the different subjects that I teach, labeled with the class name as well (I have not shown the accurate data on my sample form as our students do not find out their teachers until the first day of class, and my posting it here would violate school policy)
  5. Notes – I used a short answer response format here to record any additional information, as needed (I anticipate it will often be blank)

Once entered, all of the data can be found in a Google Sheet, where I can then sort the information by student, class/subject, date, and by type of data (homework or late). I am also trying to learn how to have the homework data go to one sheet while the late data goes to another, but I have not yet mastered the code that needs to be written in order to make this happen. I found a video explaining how to write the code for this. I did well understanding the first six minutes or so, and then I lost track of what he was saying. I need to watch it a few more times to fully absorb the information. (I would welcome someone sharing an easier way for me to achieve this goal.)

Here is the completed form:

And here is a sample of the Google Sheet:

I am still working on the nitty gritty details, but I can already see that this will be a game changer for me. Thank you to all who wrote about G Suite this week for your inspiration!

Summer Learning – Part 3

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I want my science classes to be hands-on, and so I am always looking for new ideas that enable students to build and use critical thinking skills. I came across Engineering is Elementary from the Museum of Science in Boston. There are many downloadable free units, but you have to provide some basic information (name, organization, contact information). There are three main areas to explore, The EiE Curriculum (grades 1-5), Engineering Adventures (grades 3-5), and Engineering Everywhere (grades 6-8). Clicking on any one of the banner titles will take you to its related page. The free downloadable units are not visible on each of the three main pages, but clicking on “Curriculum Units” on the top banner will lead you to the unit downloads. Each unit comes with an educator’s guide, a student notebook, and a related video. There are 40 units to explore throughout these three areas of the website, and it looks as if they are developing preschool materials, as well.

Enjoy the last few weeks of the summer.

Summer Learning – Part 2

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I have been looking for interactive sites for science, and I came across Wisc-Online. I have mentioned this site before, but I never explored the full extent of their website. There are three main categories on the home screen – learn, play games, and build games. In the “Learn” section, there are interactive slideshows and videos on a variety of topics related to computer science, science, math, and the humanities. In “Play Games”, you can choose from the same subjects, and games range in type (flashcards, hangman, jeopardy, matching, memory, bingo, tic-tac-toe, and many more). What I especially like, however, is the “Build games” section. The entire selection of game types is available, but you can tailor your game to your own content. They even provide an image library for you to use in your game. If you are going to build your own games, then I highly recommend exploring the variety of games beforehand. This will make it easier to build your own games. Have fun exploring!

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