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.
Do your middle school math students like to play math games? Mine do, but over the past few years I've noticed that many of them aren't familiar with some of the games I played when I was a kid, like Yahtzee, for example. So, as we started working on converting fractions and decimals, I decided to create a game to make practicing the conversions more fun AND give them some more game experience! I based it on the idea of Yahtzee:-)
Here's how it works:
Students roll four dice, and pair the dice up to create "target numbers" that are either decimals or whole numbers.
For example, a student rolls 1, 2, 4, and 6. From these dice, the student may create any two of the following decimal (or whole) numbers:
½ = 0.5 4/1 = 4
¼ = 0.25 4/2 = 2
1/6 = 0.1666... 4/6 = 0.666...
2/1 = 2 6/1 = 6
2/4 = 0.5 6/2 = 3
2/6 = 0.333... 6/4 = 1.5
Once a player has chosen two target numbers, he or she finds the score by adding the dice that were used for each decimal (or whole number). If the player chose to use 1 and 4 to get 0.25, he or she adds 1 + 4 for a sum of 5 to place in the score column. If the second choice used 2 and 6, to equal either 0.333...or 3, then sum of 8 would go in the appropriate column as the score.
On the next roll, this student rolls 1, 1, 3, and 5. This student can pair 1 and 1, to get 1, and pair 3 and 5 to get either 0.6 or 1.666... The score for 1 is 2 (1 + 1) and the score for 0.6 (or 1.666) is
8 (3 + 5).
In many cases, students' scores will be the same, but some of the decimals can be found with different combinations of numbers (1 and 3 = 0.333..., and so do
2 and 6, so students could have a score of either 4 or 8). Some students will notice this sum difference and go for the combination that will give them the higher score....bringing in the possibility of using some strategy, for those higher level thinkers.
The students have really enjoyed playing this game. They do need a few examples at the start, to understand exactly how the game works, so if you decide to try the game, be prepared to go through a few turns together.
You can create a score sheet like this on your own, or go to TPT and use what I've created. Detailed instructions are included, and a complete answer key of highest and lowest possible scores for each target number are included as well. This is handy to quickly check student score cards as you check in on their games.
If you give it a try, please let me know how it goes!
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Early last week, I was trying to think of a different kind of activity to help my middle school math students who needed more reinforcement with order of operations, and I decided to make a sequencing activity. I hadn't tried this before, so I wasn't sure about the best way to design it, but the activity ended up working quite well. Here's how I put this math activity together and used it with my 6th grade math classes:
Order of Operations Activity Design
For this math activity, I created 8 different
expressions, and then typed out the steps to simplify each expression. I copied the expressions and steps onto different colored papers, so that two expressions would be on the same color. I cut the steps apart into strips, and then put two expressions and their steps (of the same colored paper) into a baggie...I figured if I put only one equation in a baggie, the activity would be too simple. If I put two expressions of two different colors, it would be too easy. So I went with two expressions in the same color. That way they'd have to do some sorting of the expressions.:-)
Using the Order of Operations Activity
I put 3 baggies (6 different expressions and their steps) into a manila envelope for each group. Groups were mostly just partners, with an occasional group of 3.
I typed directions to include in the envelopes, and asked students to do their best to follow those directions before asking for clarification (some of the students worked on this activity, while others completed different activities, so I needed them to try to work through the directions themselves before I got to each group to discuss with them). Some students needed additional instruction, while others did not.
After students put the steps into the correct sequence (shown in the image above), they had to write those steps onto a recording sheet, pictured below.
In each of my math classes, students worked on this activity for about 15-20 minutes. Some groups completed all 6 expressions, while others completed only 2-3. A few more minutes would have been helpful for those students who didn't complete as many expressions, but I can revisit the activity with those students this week.
I will definitely use this again next year:)
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