Wow – this year has been crazy! I have been incredibly busy both in school and out, which is why I haven’t written in sooo long, but since my blog posts about the “Attack” review game I play with my classes continue to be some of my most viewed posts, I thought I’d write a quick post about the new, FREE Interactive version of the game!

For those of you who haven’t read my posts about the old-school version of the game, the premise is simple. Each team has a castle. Ask a review question and pick a group to answer. If they get the question right, they get to attack a couple of the other teams’ castles. If they get it wrong, I attack their castle. After 5 attacks, a castle is eliminated, but that team is still in the game – (They can still attack other castles to get revenge!) The last castle standing is the winner.

The game is a HUGE hit in every class I have ever played in and I have heard from over 100 other teachers that the same is true for their classes….and now it’s even better with the brand new interactive version!

For the interactive version, each team has a sand castle. You can attack a castle by clicking on the screen when a plane holding a bucket of water is flying above the sand castle you want to attack. (If you have an interactive whiteboard that supports touch you could even have students throw a koosh ball at the board instead of clicking to carry out the attacks!) Teams also have the option of rebuilding their castle instead of attacking another sand castle when they get a question right.

Yikes! I’ve been back in school for 3 weeks now and this is the first time I am blogging! I am going to do my best to be better about it going forward…but no promises 🙂

I have already completed my first units in all of my classes and am now working on my second units. In my next few posts I am going to share some of the lessons I have done so far this year, but right now I am going to share what I did today in my 7^{th} grade Pre-Algebra class because it went SOO well!!

I am working on rational number operations with my pre-algebra class this unit (positive & negative fractions and mixed numbers). Yesterday I did adding & subtracting negative fractions without whole numbers and today I did adding & subtracting negative mixed numbers. I have noticed over the years that students tend to struggle with this lesson since there are so many things they have to remember: integer rules, finding common denominators, borrowing with mixed numbers, converting improper answers to mixed numbers, and simplifying fractions. Because I know that this lesson gives students trouble I wanted to give my class lots of practice without boring them to death.

We started by going over the steps as a class and writing them down in their notebooks. I then had students complete some problems on mini whiteboards, step by step. Having them show me each step really helped me catch and address any issues early on in the problems. I then had the class split up into groups of 2-3. (While I often choose groups for my students, I allowed them to make their own groups for this particular activity).

I had a set of self-checking task cards on rational number addition & subtraction that I made a couple of years ago, where the answer to each card leads students to the next card they need to complete. If they answer all 20 cards correctly, the last card they do will lead them back to the card they started with, making them completely self-checking. In the past I have had students simply work through them in small groups, which works well, but this year I had the bright idea to turn it into a race…and it was AWESOME!

Here’s how I ran the activity:

I printed two copies of the cards (so there wouldn’t be an issue of students not being able to get the card they needed) and spread all the cards out on a table in the front of my classroom. I gave each group one card to start with. Students had to work in their groups to get the answer to the card. Once they had an answer they all agreed on, one person in the group had to run their card back up to the table and find the next card.

I could not be happier with how this activity went! The students were sooo into it. They were all working, engaged, and talking with each other to figure out where they went wrong. They all wanted to win the race (despite the fact that the only “prize” was a sticker!) They got lots of practice since there were 20 different cards in all. Best of all, I heard multiple students say that it was the best math class ever as they walked out of my room today, so that is definitely a win in my book! 🙂

I love playing games in my math classes! Here are just a few of the many benefits of good review games:

they are a great way to practice any type of skill

students love them

students are engaged

games encourage collaboration among students

I have found, though, that the key to keeping students engaged and enjoying games is to switch them up frequently. No matter how fun a game may be the first few times you play it, the students will eventually get bored with it if it is the ONLY game you ever play with them. Having a good variety of games to pull from really makes a difference in keeping up student enthusiasm and engagement levels. Some of my go to games include Bingo, Jeopardy-style games, Attack, and standard whiteboard games, but I am always looking for new ones to add to the mix, which is why I teamed up with my husband again to create some new, fun interactive review games!

We thought it would be fun to bring some arcade-style fun into the classroom so we created a Claw Machine Review Game. It can be played in teams or non-competitively. (I tend to teach competitive students so I plan to use the team-mode with my classes).

There are 5 different categories in a game, which are listed on little cards along the bottom of the claw machine. The claw (crane?) moves back and forth in the machine. Have a student either toss a koosh ball at the interactive whiteboard if you have one that supports touch or simply click with a mouse to stop the crane and pick up a card. It will pull up a random card from the category it is in front of. Have each group come up with an answer and then reveal the actual answer. Award points to teams with correct answers and either subtract points or do nothing to teams with incorrect answers. Once all questions from a category have been asked, the category card will disappear from the machine.

You can also adjust scores at any time by clicking the little +/- button on the bottom right-hand corner. (One idea that could add to the competition/excitement would be to subtract points from a team that doesn’t successfully pull up a card when they toss the ball at the screen).

At the end of the game, the final team scores and standings are displayed.

You can play a full game for FREE to try it out to see if you like the idea & set-up of the game! Just click on the picture below to play the free Demo Game. (It should open in a new tab right in your browser).

If you try out the free Demo and think that you would like to play a claw machine game with your class this year, simply leave a comment telling me which of the 4 games listed below you would like to win. On Monday, August 1st a random winner will be selected from everyone who leaves a comment and I will email the winner the game of their choice! The choices of Claw Machine Games to win are:

Algebra Back to School Review (Includes: integer operations, evaluating expressions, simplifying algebraic expressions, properties, and writing expressions)

Decimal Operations (Includes: addition, subtraction, multiplication, & division of POSITIVE decimals, along with decimal word problems)

Solving Equations (Includes: one-step equations, two-step equations, equations with variables on both sides, multi-step equations, and writing & solving equations)

Operations with Negative Fractions (Includes: addition, subtraction, multiplication, & division of positive and negative fractions & mixed numbers, and comparing/ordering negative fractions)

(Click the pictures below for a closer look at each game.)

Here is a video preview of the Algebra Back to School Claw Machine Game:

UPDATE 8/1: This giveaway has ended. Since there were 9 entries I used a random number generator to select a number between 1 and 9 to choose a winner. 5 came up, so Lisa (the 5th person to comment) is the winner!

Thank you so much to everyone who entered and for all the kind comments about the game. If you’d like to purchase a claw machine game, they are on sale (along with all my other resources) today and tomorrow for 28% off with code BestYear.

I decided to make divisibility my first lesson of the year for 7^{th} grade next year for a couple of different reasons: it is a skill used in many different concepts throughout the year and it really helps promote overall number sense in students.

The divisibility rules (hopefully) help students be less dependent on their calculators, which is an area I am hoping to improve on this year. So even though it isn’t the most exciting lesson of the year, it is an important one, and I think it’s a good way to begin the year.

I go over the rules for 1 – 10 with my students. (I used to skip over 7 but every year students ask me if there is a rule for 7….so now I give them the rule along with an example for which the rule could be useful (i.e. 231) but then explain that 9 times out of 10 it is easier to just do the division than it is to use the rule).

In addition to the rules I give students tips, like if a number isn’t divisible by 2 then it isn’t divisible by any other even number. Tips like that help with divisibility by 8, since that isn’t the most useful rule. I tell students to only check for divisibility by 8 if (1) the number is divisible by 2 and then (2) if it is divisible by 4.

I made half-sheets the students can stick in their notebook with the divisibility rules. You can download it free by clicking the picture below.

To make the lesson more exciting I enlisted the help of my programmer husband. He was able to build an interactive divisibility rules game that my students can play on their chromebooks, which I am super excited about! In the “Divisibility Challenge” game, you can choose which rules you want to practice and then either play for mastery, speed, or just for practice. I think I am going to originally have students play for mastery, where they need to play until they get 10 questions correct. I plan to begin class the next day with a speed competition to see who can get the most questions correct in 3 minutes. Competition always seems to get middle school students involved and engaged! Click below to try a round free. (It should open right in your browser).

Just a quick post today to share a fun, quick Easter activity I’ve done in the past with Algebra/Pre-Algebra classes in case you want to try it…

Fill up an odd number of Easter eggs with pennies (put the same number of pennies in each egg). Hide the eggs in the classroom before class begins.

When the students come in, ask for 2 volunteers. Have those 2 students search for Easter eggs. Since you have hidden an odd number of eggs the two students obviously will have found a different number. Tell them that you want to be fair so you are going to even out the amount of money each student has by giving them some loose coins.

In the picture, you can see student A only found 1 egg and student B found 4. So, I gave student A $0.25 and student B $0.04 to even out the total amount of money each student has.

Ask the class to figure out how much money is in each egg. (You can give the money to the first student to get it correct as a prize if you want.) Discuss how they figured it out and prove they are right by opening the eggs (in this case there is $0.07 in each egg).

There you have it – a fun way to have students solve equations with variables on both sides (without them even realizing that’s what they are doing!)

I’m writing about another favorite activity of mine that I use for a few different topics throughout the year – walkarounds. They require minimal prep from the teacher and are a great, effective way to practice certain skills. This post is specifically about the linear equations walk-around activity I do with my Algebra kids after they have learned Standard Form.

Here’s how it works:
I have 6 different standard form linear equations that I copy enough times so that each student gets 1 equation. (You can download the equations at the bottom of the post). I give each student an equation and tell them to convert it to slope-intercept form and then graph it.

After a few minutes have passed and most students are done, I tell them to form groups based on the equations they were given (all the 1’s are together, 2’s are together, etc.). In their groups they need to compare answers and come to a consensus on the correct slope-intercept equation and graph. Once they are in agreement they need to get their answer approved by me and then transfer the correct graph to a mini whiteboard. (Large graph anchor chart paper would actually be ideal, but I don’t have any so I use the whiteboards). They should NOT write the equation on the mini whiteboard, just the graph and their problem number.

Once this is completed, I give students a recording sheet (download link is at the bottom of this post). I tell them to draw a big x through the number they graphed since they don’t have to do that one. Then the students walk around the room and have to look at the other groups’ graphs and determine the slope-intercept form of the equations that were graphed. They then need to convert those slope-intercept form equations into standard form. (The walkaround runs smoothest if you have a set order for students to walk around the room instead of letting them wander wherever. I tell them to go in order, so group 4 would start at the graph of 5, then go to 6, and then 1, 2, and end at 3). I also have found that it works best if students just write the slope-intercept form of the line while they are walking around, and then return to their seats to convert them to standard form.

I love this activity because it gives students an opportunity to work both independently and cooperatively and gives them practice converting standard form to slope-intercept form, graphing lines, writing equations from graphs, and converting slope-intercept form to standard form.

(If you are in need of additional activities to supplement your linear equations unit, you may be interested in the linear equations relay races I have available in my TpT store.)

You can download the 6 equation cards for the walk around activity (FREE) by clicking the picture below:

You can download the activity recording sheet (FREE) by clicking the picture below:

What activities have you done for linear equations? Please share in the comments!

With my school going from pre-k – 8^{th} grade, I have always felt kind of bad for the “big kids” on Valentine’s Day because it is business for them as usual while the lower grades are having parties. That’s why I always try to do something a little different than a normal math class, but still academic. I thought I’d share a couple of the things I have done with my students on Valentine’s Day for other teachers who are looking for easy, free, no-prep ways to bring some holiday fun into their math classes.

I have shared before that I LOVE problem-solving and give my students word problems daily. (You can read about my daily problem solving here). On Valentine’s Day I use a set of Valentine’s word problems on fractions that I made a few years ago instead of the normal problem of the day. (Download them free from my TpT store by clicking on the picture below). The word problems are a great challenge because they combine two areas students typically struggle with – fractions and word problems.

I break the class into groups of 4 and have them work together on the problems. I make it a contest – either the first group to get all the problems correct wins, or any group that gets at least 5 problems right within a set time limit wins, etc. Students don’t necessarily love working on word problems (the understatement of the century), but working as a group and making it a contest definitely ups the fun-factor!

Finally, show your students some love by giving them a homework pass. You can download mine free by clicking on the picture below. (Write the student’s name on the 1st line and sign the 2nd line.) Either give one to every student as a Valentine or use them as a prize for the groups that won the word problem race and “Attack” game. (I use the point system of grading, and homework counts as 2 points a day in my class, so I personally allow my students to either use the homework pass to get credit on a night where they didn’t do their homework or they can turn it in at the end of the marking period for 2 extra credit points.)

I hope you are able to use some of these ideas in your class. Please feel free to share what you do to have fun with your students on Valentine’s Day in the comments below!

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.

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.

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.

How do you take a topic that isn’t overly exciting and get the kids to have fun with it? I have found that getting students out of their seats and working with friends usually does the trick! 🙂

Today I am sharing an activity on the distance and midpoint formulas:

Give each student an ordered pair card and worksheet (download links are below)

Have them grab a partner, find the distance and midpoint between their point and their partner’s point and then “check” their work by graphing the ordered pairs and seeing if their answers make sense.

Have them repeat with 2 other partners.

Challenge early finishers (or everyone) to then grab another partner. Let their point be an endpoint and their partner’s point be the midpoint. They need to find the other endpoint.

It’s a quick easy-to-implement activity that gets kids moving and working together. Enjoy!

Click the image below to download the ordered pair task cards:

Click the image below to download the Distance and Midpoint Partner Activity worksheet:

This is an activity on graphing in the coordinate plane that gets kids up and moving around the room:

Give each student an ordered pair card when they walk in the room (free download link is below)

Give each student a worksheet (free download link is below)

Have them walk around the room and find someone who has an ordered pair that meets the given description. Once they find someone with an ordered pair that “works”, they need to write down that person’s ordered pair and have them sign their paper. (The signatures ensure that the students are actually walking around the room to find ordered pairs and not just copying from a friend). They are only allowed to have a student sign their paper once, so they will need to find 9 different people to sign their paper in order to answer all of the questions.

After they have gathered all of their ordered pairs and signatures, they need to plot all of the points they found on the coordinate plane on the bottom of the page, labeling each of them with the given letter and their own ordered pair with a star.

I think that this lesson will be a nice way to break the monotony of simply having students graph points on a coordinate plane and write coordinates for given points. It also makes students think more about their points than they would if they were just graphing them. They need to think about their x-coordinate, y-coordinate, and what quadrant/axis it is located in for this activity.

Click the image below to download the ordered pairs cards:

Click the image below to download the “Coordinate Plane Find Someone Who…” worksheet:

Also, if you are looking for a way to challenge your higher level students with the coordinate plane, you may want to check out my Coordinate Plane Challenge Task Card Activity. It consists of higher level thinking task cards and a riddle sheet and is a good way to challenge students who find coordinate plane graphing easy. It’s $2.50 in my Teachers pay Teachers store.