So, I am a very competitive person (which may or may not come as a shock to my followers…), and I loved every opportunity to challenge my students in competition. That may be your classroom style; it may not. However, one of the things I created for my Algebra I Honors class is something I am especially proud of and I wanted to share about it. The concept is simple enough; you could use it for any mathematical concept – or any other content area. It’s the puzzle. I got the idea from a little Christmas puzzle my parents have that I played with every year. It had 9 squares, and on each edge of each square there was either the top or bottom half of a penguin. They had different hats, scarves, jackets, and other items so you could tell which top went with which bottom. There were lots of wrong ways to solve the puzzle, but only one right way. I took this idea and converted it into a math puzzle. I put equations and answers on corresponding edges. I made copies of the puzzles, cut them up, and put them into envelopes. Then, I put students into teams. Finally, I let them try to solve the puzzle, and whichever team did it first got some sort of prize (usually extra points on an upcoming quiz or test). It takes a little ground work on the front end, but this was something they LOVED and would do (willingly) and stay focused on again and again throughout various units during the year. Here’s a visual sample of what a puzzle might look like (this isn’t one of the ones I have in my puzzle packet, so if you like it, consider it a bonus for being a follower/reader of my blog). Of course this has 9 squares, but to make it more difficult, you could make it 16 squares and less difficult with 4 squares. The colors in the center are the “key” so you don’t have to check the math. This is essential for higher level stuff like quadratic equations, factoring polynomials, etc.
Games are fun for kids at any age. It’s a great way for students to learn without “realizing” it. Whether you do something like this, an activity like my row races, my theoretical probability project, or some other game, be prepared for your students to enjoy it and ask to do it frequently. Of course, you can’t just play games every day, but incorporating them into your lessons has benefits that will be evident long after the games stop.
By the way, these puzzles were used by my 8th grade Algebra I Honors students, so I believe they would be successful in the 7-10 grades range.