Fun (Free) Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in the Middle School Math Classroom

With my school going from pre-k – 8th 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.

valentines day math in the middle

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.

valentine freebie pic2

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!

After the word problems, play a game of “Attack”, reviewing whatever concept you are currently studying.  On Valentine’s Day I have them draw hearts as the thing they are attacking and have them attack by drawing arrows on the hearts.  (If you missed my post explaining how to play, you can read it here – trust me, it’s worth the read because students absolutely LOVE this game!)

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.)

hw pass pic

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!

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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Making Middle School Students Better Problem Solvers

When am I ever going to use this?”

It’s the question every math teacher is asked, and while it may be annoying to hear, it is a good, valid question.  It’s important for students to understand the reasons behind the math they are learning and that they know how to apply it to real-world situations.  That’s why I consider problem solving to be the single most important part of my math classes.  I place a lot of emphasis on word problems in my daily classes, in my homework assignments, and on my tests.

Making Middle School Students Better Problem Solvers  Math in the Middle

I typically assign a workbook page to my students each night for homework.  My textbook series is pretty good about making sure each workbook page contains a couple of word problems, which is great, but there is one big flaw.  If I am teaching a lesson on adding fractions, the workbook page contains a page full of fraction addition problems and two word problems on the bottom that require students to, (you guessed it), add fractions.  To me, that isn’t problem solving.  Students know without even reading the problem that they will need to add fractions because that is what the lesson was on.  It’s good for them to see examples of how adding fractions is applied to real world situations, so I have students complete those problems, but it isn’t enough to make the students better problem solvers.

A few years ago I decided that I would have my students complete one word problem a day that wasn’t related to the day’s lesson.  One problem that would make the kids have to stop and think about how to solve it, because to me, that is how students become better problem solvers.

180 Daily Middle School Word Problems| Problem of the Day| Math in the Middle

I wrote 180 daily word problems for my advanced 6th grade math class and put the problems in both PowerPoint and printable forms.  I either project the PowerPoint version of the word problem of the day as a do now or assign the printable version for homework, but every day my students are solving a  multi-step word problem unrelated to the day’s lesson.  Since it covers a topic they previously learned, it is also serves as a form of spiral review.  Sometimes I collect the students’ work to see how each student solved the problem and sometimes we discuss them and compare/contrast strategies.

180 Daily Middle School Word Problems| Problem of the Day| Math in the MIddle

I have my students solve the problems using a four-step plan, which I say is EESE (pronounced easy):

  • Explore – read the problem & identify any important information in it
  • Estimate – approximate the answer using rounding and/or common sense
  • Solve – solve the problem
  • Examine – see if the answer makes sense, see if it’s close to their estimate, and make sure it’s labeled

To download a FREE double-sided weekly sheet students can use to complete a Problem of the Day using the 4 step plan, click the image below.

pod work sheet

Since I have started my problem of the day program, I have seen a huge increase in both my students’ willingness to attempt word problems and their success in solving them.

180 Daily Middle School Word Problems| Problem of the Day| Math in the Middle

If you are interested in my 180 Daily Middle School Word Problems, you can pick them up in my TpT store.  They are typically $12, but are on sale today and tomorrow for 28% off with code BTS15.  If you want to try them out before buying the set, you can download 10 days free!


What do you do to make your students better problem solvers?  The first 3 people to respond with their problem solving strategies (and give their email address) will get a free copy of my first set of 45 Daily Middle School Word Problems!


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