Category Archives: Games/Activities

Sneaky Worksheets!

One of the things I’m trying to do this year is trick students into spending more time working with content. I could lecture for most of the period (definitions, examples, questions, answers, etc.) and then hand out a worksheet for students to start with whatever time remains and finish homework. You probably know about how well this works as you’ve probably done something similar at some point in your teaching career. Replace this structure that barely works if at all with my new paradigm: students watch a video on their own taking notes and complete some sort of activity during class time. Here are my last three activities; you’ll notice each one is basically a worksheet in disguise.

Working with Variables (Combining Like Terms & Distributive Property)

Students match an expression with its simplified form.

Students were much more engaged than they would have been with a traditional worksheet. An important visitor to my classroom seemed to agree!

Properties of Real Numbers

Students assemble a hexagonal Tarsia puzzle by matching equivalent expressions and then color code.


I’m not a 100% sure where I first saw posts about these. I’m going to pretend it was here. (It was a starred entry in my Google Reader about Tarsia and could use an excuse to link to this blog) Students thought this was much harder than simply finding matches – you might notice I was a little vicious and included three instances of “0” and two each of “1” and “x” as simplified forms. We actually spent much more than a single class period on this one.

Solving Easier Linear Equations

Students wager points on their ability to solve certain types of equations. The PowerPoint is set up to automatically advance. Students whiteboard their work, share their work/answers during the blank slide, then the answer is revealed. Students update their score and make their next wager before the next equation pops up.

Some students got into this more than others of course, but it was a hit overall. I’ll definitely use the format again in the future with factoring or something. A few students had a lot of trouble at first with the fact it was ‘automatic’ – they wanted to chat between rounds but didn’t really have time. I told them if you don’t wager before the next equation pops up then your bid is automatically zero. It might have helped some that we were playing for a little candy …

These activities all became a left-hand side entry in my students’ not-quite-interactive notebooks. (At least I’m trying!)


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Talk about jumping on some bandwagons …

My wife is pretty awesome (no, that’s not the bandwagon I want you to jump on …). She probably got the idea for this from Pinterest, but we discussed, modified, and created a version to use in our classes. It beats having the kids write some basic facts on an index card or buying the ‘about me’ sheets from a teacher store.



Most of the first two days of school will be occupied with students taking a ‘how much Algebra 1 do you remember?’ pre-test and then scoring it themselves to analyze strengths and weaknesses before we begin the review. I like to include review at the start of each class and hope that this pre-test will help most of them realize why I feel review is necessary (or show me that it isn’t!).



During one of the first math department meetings of the year, we decided to use a pre-test in Algebra 2. I made this one, and I really started liking the idea after deciding to design the key in such a way that students can grade it for themselves and hopefully reflect on the results.

I’ve also modified a game that wife is planning on using during this first week; I figure it’s about the closest to a ‘party game’ activity as I can do. I write a two-digit (or three-digit?) numbers on paper and tape them to students’ backs. The students’ goal is to figure out the number on their back by asking their classmates ‘yes or no’ questions. Students have to cycle through the class a few times asking questions (and mixing/mingling in case they don’t already know each other). The hook is that questions can only be answered with the word “maybe” and you are supposed to use inflection, body language, non-verbal cues (except head shakes/nods), etc. to communicate whether it’s maybe yes or maybe no. The students will have until the following song completes to come up with a guess for their number:

Of course, this song has been a huge hit this summer inspiring all sorts of shenanigans on YouTube. I think I’ll use this version from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon as it adds to the silliness. I will probably come up with some sort of sheet to help them track their questions and then we’ll have a discussion about which questions seem to be more or less helpful. This will hopefully lead into why there are names for different types of numbers (natural, even, odd, prime, multiples, etc.). I will edit to include the form for the “Here’s My Number, Guess Me Maybe” game when I produce one.

I know this is a little late for the official Sunday posts on ‘first day of school’ and “#Made4Monday” but oh well …

to recap:


  1. social media connections (Facebook/Pinterest)
  2. Call Me Maybe meme
  3. twitter #Made4MathMonday and #hsSunFun


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