Turn Multi-Step Problems into Team Activities

Let me start by saying that relays are not an original idea..maybe you have been doing them for years…but they are new to me, (and i love them) so I figured I’d share in case anyone else has never tried relays with their class.

team relays

How they work:
Take a problem that requires multiple steps to solve, and break it up into however many steps you need to solve the problem.   Then break your class up into groups that are the same size as the number of steps in a problem.

For example: Multi-Step Equations

I came up with the following 5 steps:

  • distribute to clear any parentheses in the problem
  • combine like terms within each side of the equation
  • add/subtract to isolate variable terms from constant terms
  • multiply/divide to solve for the variable
  • check by substituting answer in for variable

Since it is a 5 step process, I need to break the class up into groups of 5.  (If your class size doesn’t divide evenly by 5, you can make some groups of 4).

Give the class a problem, assign each student in a group a step of the process.  Student 1 completes the first step and passes it to student 2.  Student 2 checks student 1’s work and then does step 2, etc. until each student has completed a step and the problem has been solved (and checked.). For a group of 4, student 1 will also complete step 5.

multi-step equations team relay

Repeat this process 5 times with 5 different problems, each time shifting which student starts the problem, so that by the end every student has had a turn completing each step.

I love this activity because

  • The students work cooperatively, but individually
  • The students are checking each others’ work
  • Relays really emphasize each step in a process

Make it a race if your class is competitive.  If you want to see who completed each part you can have them write in different colors.  Either have them sit in a circle if you want them to be able to help each other complete their steps or have them sit in a row if you want it to be a silent activity.

Do you use relays in your class?  If you have any tips, suggestions, or other ideas for them please share in the comments below!

If you don’t want to make your own relay and are looking for a pre-made one, I have one on writing and graphing linear equations (using point-slope and slope-intercept form) available for sale in my TpT store, which you can get to by clicking the image below.  I am planning to make several others on different topics in the near future, as well.

writing and graphing linear equations team relay pic3

Thanks for reading,


5 thoughts on “Turn Multi-Step Problems into Team Activities

  1. Christina, I was just wondering what you do when a student receives the paper in the relay, but they know there is a mistake in the work? Do they hand it back to the previous person to fix? If so, do you have the student who returned it instruct them on how to fix the mistake, or the student has to figure it out on their own. Planning on doing this in class soon! Thanks for the idea!

    1. Hi Casey,

      My rule is if a student finds a mistake in a relay, they need to show the mistake to the person who made it and guide them in fixing it, like a tutor. So, the student who made the mistake has to be the one who actually fixes it on the paper but the student who caught the mistake is allowed to help them with it.

      Hope that helps!


  2. What do the other students do while the one person in the group is working on their step? I teach 9th grade and I can see this turning into an issue of too much down time.

    1. With the topics I have used relays for, no step takes too long so I haven’t had any issues with off task behavior. At times I allow groups to help each other with steps so they watch what their teammate is doing. Another option is if you have a group of 4….give the group 4 problems at once so each kid has a different one. Each student does one step of their problem and then passes it to the next person and does step 2 of their problem…etc.

      Hope that helps!


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