Let’s face it, in order to really understand math, there needs to be practice. However, no one really wants to just sit there, in their uncomfortable seat, and do what seems like hundreds of practice problems on a boring worksheet. I have 3 different ideas to share with you that are super easy to implement in your classroom!

**Engaging Activity Idea #1**

**Turn the worksheet into a team activity.**

I do this all the time! Just the other day we did it in my resource class and I took some pictures to show you. Because the class is small, we grouped Boys vs Girls. However, in a larger classroom, I have done this with as many as 32 students. You just need some board space (or white boards for a larger number of groups), and fun group names.

One of my teacher friends went to a conference a few years back and the presenter suggested a way to have your students come up with team names. Ever since I heard the method I have stuck with it! Give your students a very specific way to name their team. For example, below, I told my students to choose a COLOR and a FOOD. In a matter of seconds they have team names. No more taking WAAAAAAAAAAY too long to name teams.

I try to always have the first word be a COLOR so that I can put their team name on a piece of construction paper that matches. It’s a small touch, but it really adds to the fun when the kiddos see that you are willing to use some more of your resources on them.

I try to always have the first word be a COLOR so that I can put their team name on a piece of construction paper that matches. It’s a small touch, but it really adds to the fun when the kiddos see that you are willing to use some more of your resources on them.

So as you can see, my kiddos chose to be the Green Watermelon and the Purple Ice-Cream. Then, we took a very boring, dry worksheet and turned it into a competition.

Each team was given the same integer addition/subtraction problem. They had to 1) write the problem, 2) draw their T chart, 3) solve the problem, 4) write the answer and circle it.

Why so many steps?! Well, what I have learned is that students get VERY competitive AND if one students puts more work on the board they will argue that the other team didn’t “do as much” to get the same answer. So, I spell out what I have to see for them to be considered “done”.

After finishing, the team that gets the answer first, gets 2 points, and each team that gets it correct but not fastest gets 1 point. Students who are sitting at their desk work on the same problem and if they see their teammate at the board, or on the whiteboard is getting stuck, they are allowed to offer help.

My boys fell behind on the first three problems so they decided they needed a good luck ritual. They wrote “girls, boo” (see above) on the board and tapped it each time before starting the problem. Surprisingly… it worked for a few problems! So the girls retaliated (see below) and wrote “boys, boo) on their side of the board and knuckled bumped it before each problem.

As long as their competitive nature stays friendly, I let it go. When it gets a little rowdy, we rein it back in a bit.

So we ended up playing our game for the entire class period. Almost 30 adding and subtracting integer problems with absolutely NO complaining…. AND, they helped each other out and worked through mistakes! Sounds like SUCCESSFUL ENGAGEMENT to me!!

EDIT: For those of you asking about the T-chart strategy, check this out

**Engaging Activity Idea #2 AND a freebie!**

**Pit your kiddos against each other**

**(this can be done in teams too)**

So, I learned pretty quickly that one of my resource classes can’t handle team type games. I have 3 football players who are OVERLY competitive and it gets a little nasty….. Also, I have some students who work pretty slowly and speed competitions are just not a great idea.

Enter… Balloon Pop!

(I did not come up with this idea, there are various forms of it all over the internet.

I did create the page below using graphics from Ashley Hughes)

Click on the picture to download this page to use Balloon Pop in your classroom |

The basic rule of Balloon Pop in my classroom (feel free to modify to fit your students’ needs:

1) Answer set amount of questions.

2) Get the question(s) checked by teachers.

3) If you get the question correct, you may POP (draw an X through) any other teams’ balloon.

4) If you get the question wrong, you have one chance to fix the error (this may change depending on the group you are working with). If you still get it wrong, the teacher POPS one of YOUR team’s balloons.

5) Once 10 of the 15 balloons have been popped,a team may choose to blow a balloon back up instead of popping another teams’ by erasing the X through the balloon.

6) A team who has had all 15 balloons popped is SAFE from being popped until they are able to blow 5 of their balloons back up (this keeps people from ganging up on them too badly.)

So…..

Below you can see that I took a SUPER BORING worksheet with almost 60 addition and subtraction of integer problems on it and drew lines between each three problems. Depending on how fast a team can answer problems will depend on how many problems they need to do to POP a balloon. In Algebra, solving just one multi-step equation, or one system problem is enough to pop a balloon. We decided that 3 addition/subtraction of integer problems would allow enough time between problem sets to not have a perpetual line of getting checked.

Before class started, I printed the balloons off onto colored paper. Each team/person has their own color. This helps personalize the game some as well. It’s easier to find their color, and they get to choose which color they want to be. I also slid each paper into a page protector so that balloons could be X’d out and erased as needed. Once each student chose their color, I wrote their name above their page.

In the beginning, I like to rile the game up a bit. Meagan came up and crossed out Jeffrey’s balloon, so I said “Uh, oh… Jeffrey’s down a balloon….”. I try to do this for the first few balloons for each person. It helps them spread out who they target and keep “that kid” in class from being ganged up on unnecessarily.

I have seen so many strategic plays happen using this game…. from alliances, to deciding if it’s better to pop someone else balloon, or blow their own balloon back up…. TONS of fun and lots of laughter… even with the overly competitive football player types.

**Engaging Activity Idea #3**

**combined with idea #1 AND a freebie!**

**Have students create their own problems!**

One of my all time favorite engaging activities is to have student create their own problems given very specific criteria. Why specific criteria? Well, I deal with middle schoolers and if their isn’t specific criteria, there is always “that kid” that wants to give you the most basic, most obvious answer so they can be done.

Recently my 6th graders have been working on order of operations. I pulled in an activity that I created that can be used remedially or with extension over multiple grade levels!

You MUST use ALL the numbers 1,2,3 and 4.

You may NOT repeat the 1,2,3 or 4.

The numbers 1,2,3, and 4 do NOT need to be in consecutive order.

You may use addition, subtraction, multiplication or division as many times as you would like.

Parenthesis, Exponents, Square roots, and Fraction bars ARE allowed.

There ARE multiple solutions to EACH problem!

10 = 1 + 3 + 2 + 4 <– lower level students

10 = (4*2) + (3-1)

10 = (3^2) + (1^4) <– enrichment students

Click this picture to download Tricky Twenty Four for FREE!!! |

I combined the idea of writing their own problem, with being on teams competing against each other. I wrote 1 through 24 on the board and as students got their problem approved, I wrote it on their team board, and then they wrote the problem on the board. Writing on the board allowed all students to see which numbers had already been solved.

As you can see in the picture, both teams solved the #6 problem differently. This is perfectly okay! It’s great for students to see different ways of solving the same problem! What else I love about this game is the conversations I get to have with my kiddos about order of operations. Many times they are following order of operations in their head but aren’t writing it on the paper correctly. Through this activity, you get to see their thinking and help adjust it.

All three of these activities have been used in my math classrooms as well as my resource classrooms and my kiddos absolutely love them. It’s so amazing that adding in such an easy step can make the kiddos ask to “do [that activity] again”

It’s so easy to implement these ideas in your classroom! Which one are you going to try this week? What other easy to implement ideas do you have?!

Edit: I did a follow-up to this post on the All Things Upper Elementary blog. You can find 4 more ideas at this link.

Edit: I did a follow-up to this post on the All Things Upper Elementary blog. You can find 4 more ideas at this link.

Kim

Jamie:

So many GREAT ideas all in one post?!

My heart is happy!

Thanks for sharing so many strategies that I can easily use.

And the team naming suggestion will be put into place on Monday morning…

Kim

Finding JOY in 6th Grade

Jamie Riggs

Thanks so much, Kim! I plan to do more posts like this in the near future. I love stuff that is simple, and SUPER easy to implement!

Mrs. S

YAY< YAY< YAY! All three of these will be put to use. They are great! THANKS!

Jamie Riggs

You are so very welcome!

Lisa Bee

I love these ideas! You are a genius!!

-Lisa

Grade 4 Buzz

Jamie Riggs

You are too kind…. not a genius, just trying to make things for entertaining for my kiddos!

Robin Nehila

I love you!!!! Wrote all my plans today without a hitch until I came to the review day and I was in misery…until you have saved me!!! Can’t wait to do these with my class!!!!!

THANK YOU!!!

Jamie Riggs

<3 Thanks so much! I can’t wait to hear how everything went!

Janice Driscoll

These are wonderful! Thanks for sharing! I will be passing these ideas on to our intermediate school staff (gr. 3-6) to see what they can do to spice things up. Love your website and materials too.

-Janice

Jamie Riggs

Thanks so much, Janice! Stop in anytime! Let me know what your teachers think 🙂

Anisa

These are GREAT ideas.

How do you teach integers with the t-chart? I’m intrigued.

Anisa @ Creative Undertakings

Jamie Riggs

Hey Anisa! I will be doing a post on the T-chart method very soon! LOVE using it with my kiddos!

MissMathDork

Anise, I finally created a t-chart strategy write up! https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Integer-Computation-with-a-t-chart-An-adding-subtracting-strategy-2238257

Misty (Snowlady)

Love these ideas!! Thanks for sharing.

Misty@ http://littleroomunderthestairs.blogspot.com

Jamie Riggs

You are so very welcome! Thanks for stopping by!

Lindsey Showers

Thanks for posting these. I have a small arsenal of activities that I like to use but none of them are quite this SIMPLE! Love! Thank you for sharing!! I am looking forward to seeing more (including that T-chart method).

Jamie Riggs

You are so welcome…. the T chart method will *hopefully* make a debut this weekend. It’s on my list!

MissMathDork

Lindsey, I finally created a t-chart strategy write up! https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Integer-Computation-with-a-t-chart-An-adding-subtracting-strategy-2238257

Fiona Cheng

Thank you for sharing these great ideas! As someone who is not a math thinker, these will be so helpful! Will be following your blog regularly for new ideas!

Jamie Riggs

Thanks so much! I’m glad I had some ideas for you! I did a follow up to this on my collaborative blog All Things Upper Elementary. You can find the link: http://www.missmathdork.com/2013/10/how-to-make-boring-practicea-little.html

Laura Hubert

I LOVE these ideas! I have been looking for ways to make math practice more fun for my 4th graders–these ideas will work well with multiplication and division practice! Thank you!

Robin

Great ideas – thanks for sharing. Have you ever seen Sunken Treasure? Great free PowerPoint game – we have to force kids to leave class because this game is so fun & addicting – cant attach link, but if you google sunken treasure PowerPoint you’ll find it. Requires 36 practice or review problems, so a little legwork on your end, but a fun game regardless. Great for word problems & group work.

Mrs. Gwynn

This is brilliant. I will be using this idea for math this week to practice evaluating expressions!

Mrs. E Teaches Math

Oh my goodness, I need to play all of these games now! These are FANTASTIC ideas. The best part is, they could be used with any topic and any grade level.

M Batchelor

These ideas are beyond awesome! Thank you for sharing, I will be implementing them immediately!

Unknown

Your balloon pop idea sounds great! I’ve been looking for something like this for boring practice problems in my Chemistry 11 class. Even senior high needs a little bit of fun!