What type of math activity do you most like to have your middle school math students work on?
For me, it's almost always been problem solving. This could include word problems that apply specific math concepts, word problems that incorporate a variety of math concepts, logic puzzles, or word problems that focus on problem solving strategies (create a table, make an organized list, find a pattern, work backwards, draw a picture, etc). I love using problems that have more than one correct solution, so students can share the thinking that leads to different answers.
When we work on problem solving activities, I often have students work together, so they can model for each other and share/listen to each others' thinking and reasoning.
I wrote the "Party Planning" problem to give students practice with decimal operations and with solving problems with multiple solutions. To solve the problem, students worked with one or two partners to come up with combinations of foods that Reggie could buy for a party. To find their solutions, students needed to add decimals; multiply if they were going to include several of one item; and possibly subtract, if their total was over $50.
Student Conversation and Feedback
I loved listening to the kids' conversations as they worked on this problem. I heard comments like, "No one eats pretzels," or, "I'd choose candy and chips over pretzels," and so on.
The students had a few important questions for me, as they were pretty serious about this planning.
"Is this a "regular" party or like a sleep-over party, because the kind of food would depend on how long the party is."
"How big is the container of ice cream?"
"How big is the bag of candy?"
Making math stations work in 40-minute class periods
I taught elementary school for 12 years and I loved my math centers (or math stations, as you might call them)! They were great. Math class was always an hour, and we had five computers in the classroom, so having a computer center was always an option.
Then I moved to middle school. Math class was 44 minutes (minus time for switching classes.....so more like 40 minutes). How could I fit more than two math station rotations in a 40-minute period?? I longed for block scheduling (our district has never had it)...that would make it so much easier to complete math center rotations! For the first year or two of middle school, I kind of gave up on the idea of math centers...the activities I wanted students to complete took longer than 20 minutes. So, that would be enough time to finish two math station rotations, IF students started the second they walked in the door and then had no time to clean up/organize at the end of class. But eventually I needed to get my math centers back, so I experimented with a few different set-ups before I landed on a structure that works.