ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK
Have you tried this Mathline probability lesson? If not, you may want to give it a try - "Rock Around the Clock" is a great activity for your middle school math students!
In this lesson, students are presented with a contest situation: in packs of gum, there are photographs of six different rock stars. The first person to collect all six pictures, AND take them to the radio station that is sponsoring the contest, will win an all-expense-paid trip to any location in the US.
The question posed to the students is this - "What is a reasonable number of packs of gum you should purchase in order to collect all six pictures?" This question is discussed as a class....to think about the fewest number of packs possible, but also to consider how many packs would be reasonable.
Simulating the Contest
The students are put into groups and each group is given materials to simulate the contest. I have used this lesson twice; once I used dice and once I used colored disks (on which I wrote the rock stars' names). When using the dice, students simply roll the die and then record the number that was rolled (each rock star would need to be assigned a number). When using the disks, the students picked a disk from a cup, recorded the star that was chosen, and then returned the disk to the cup.
The lesson suggests that each student complete their own trial; I had the groups complete two trials together rather than each student completing their own. I also had all groups use the same materials - the dice one year and the disks another (the lesson plan suggests that the students use dice, spinners, OR disks for their trials and that the lesson then include a discussion about the possible differences in results based on the method used....I did not address this part, but it is definitely an option, especially if you have a longer math period).
Could you use a quick math activity to help your students practice identifying decimals in standard and word form? How about some comparing and ordering of decimals? I've got an activity that covers all of those for you:-)
When I created this one, we were just beginning our work with decimals (in grade 6), and my students had done a little bit of work with writing decimal numbers in word form. They had also worked on comparing decimals several times during the year, in our Daily Warm Ups book.
Using the Decimal Matching Activity
The first step in the activity is to match each card with a decimal number in standard form to the card with the correct word form. I allowed students to work alone or with one partner, and the matching didn't really take that long. I did have similar numbers (like 9.68, 9.068, 9.0068 etc), so that the students had to read carefully and take some time to compare those similar numbers.
I'm sure you use a variety of review activities in your elementary or middle school classroom - have you ever used Footloose activities? I've mentioned the activity in my blog posts before, but have never really explained it on this blog (I did on my old one, maybe 5(!) years ago), so unless you've used one of my Footloose activities in your classroom, you might not know how it works. It's an activity that is enjoyed by students of all ages, and can be used with just about any topic you're teaching. I use it mostly for math, because that's what I teach; but in the past, when I taught different grade levels, I used it as a review activity in other subject areas as well.
It's amazing how quiet and engaged students are when completing this activity. They are up and down, out of their seats, and you'd think they'd be very distracted...but no matter what the grade level (I've used it with 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades), students stay focused and work hard to complete the questions!
Finding the Lowest Common Denominator with the
What's the most challenging math topic to teach/most difficult for your students to ‘get'?
This was my question in a recent Instagram survey. I got a variety of responses, but the one that came up most often was fractions – remembering the ‘rules;’ students finding common denominators when they were multiplying; students (older students) not being able to find a common denominator; and so on.
So, today, I’m going to share how to use the ladder method to find the lowest (least) common denominator, and hopefully, if your students have struggled with this, it will help them (and you!). Before I explain how it works, I want to share that I've used the ladder method for several years, after many years of teaching GCF and LCM the ‘traditional’ way - the way I’d been taught! And during those years, I’d often get frustrated by the fact that students would miss the GCF because they missed factors, or they couldn’t find the LCD because the numbers got too big so they just multiplied the denominators…..or they listed out the multiples, but made a mistake in one list, and so they never found an LCM/LCD. I'm sure you know what I mean!
The ladder method took these issues away, and it also added something I didn’t initially expect – it appeared to improve number sense for many students who struggled with their multiplication facts or with the idea of finding factors and multiples. It helped them understand HOW numbers were related to each other by making the breakdown of the #s more visual (using prime factorization does this as well, but the ladder method provides a little more organization to the process, and I think that’s helpful).
Use Task Cards in a New Way, to Provide
Self-Differentiation and Promote Discussion
If you're like me (and so many other teachers), you know that task cards can be used in sooo many ways. From centers to Footloose (or Scoot) to exit tickets to entrance tickets to mini-quizzes - the list is long!
However, if you're like me in other ways, you're always looking for something new and different. This year, my "new and different" was to start using task cards to play Truth or Dare in math and language arts classes! To use them this way, some of the task/question cards need to be written as True or False questions, which can make the questions just a little trickier and lead to more in-depth thinking. I allow students to discuss the answers after the "official" answer is given, and depending on the question, students end up having great discussions!
The Dare questions are a little harder, require more calculation or perhaps more verbal explanation than the Truth cards, and so they are worth more points. (Truth cards are worth one point while Dare cards are worth 2 or 3 - I've even thrown in a 4-pointer here and there.)
What makes this game fun? Well, it's a little different - with the "dare" part in there. Students also don't always know how many points they're going to get to try, so that offers a little excitement. I like the fact that students can choose the type of question they want, so it allows for some self-determined differentiation...the choice gives the more hesitant students the chance to feel a little more confident.
After creating several paper and pencil Truth or Dare games, my wonderful friend Leah (Secondary Resources for Social Studies & English) suggested that I make a Google classroom version, and I'm so glad I did! It's so easy to use and there's little to no copying needed! (A little copying if I want students to write their work/answers on paper; no copying if I want to share the Truth or Dare game in Edit mode and have students type their answers.) Check out the 2-minute video below - it shows how the game works in Edit mode (there are one or two "slow to refresh" spots in the video, so please don't think it's not working:-)
Check out this video to learn more about the way the game is played with paper/pencil - in any subject!
I hope you can use this game idea-it can be used in any subject!
I was looking through my middle school math folders on my computer, and came across a document called "The Factor Game," and it occurred to me that in trying to think of some new things to do with my classes, I forgot to play the Factor Game this year when we started talking about factors!
I was so disappointed with myself. Of course, we can play it next week, or any other time, but I just couldn't believe that I had forgotten about it. I'm sure many people know of the Factor Game, or use a version of it, but for those who don't, here it is!
Have I mentioned that I love Jo Boaler’s books and site, Youcubed.org? Well, I do! She shares so much fantastic research and so many wonderful ideas.
So, I was reading her book Mathematical Mindsets this week, and read about the “array game” (called How Close to 100), which I’ve seen all over Pinterest and thought was very cool. I tried it with my classes last year during a little bit of down time, and they liked it. I hadn't really thought of using it this year, but last week I noticed the baggie of polyhedral dice that I've had for a looooong time and thought it would be cool to use the dodecahedron dice for the array game. With these dice, the students could use numbers up to 12, rather than 6.
To set up their game, students each outlined a 20 by 20 area on their own graph paper. They took turns rolling their dice and creating arrays to represent the multiplication problem they had rolled. It was very interesting to observe the way students arranged their arrays. Some started in the corner and worked their way out, while others started on one side and worked their way across. Some made the arrays touch, if possible, while others left a row between each one. Some just drew their first few arrays anywhere and then discovered that they didn't have a lot of room to fit additional ones. The "winner" was the student with the fewest number of boxes left (some did get to zero left). The students really had fun with this!
Of course, some finished their games earlier than others. In these cases, I asked students to create arrays that used different numbers than the numbers they rolled, but represented the same area. For example, if they rolled 12 and 5, their arrays could be 10 by 6, 15 by 4, or 20 by 3 (not 30 by 2, we discussed, because the grid is only 20 by 20). If they rolled a number that couldn't be represented by a whole-number array, they could then use an irregular shape, or a triangle - anything they could find the area of. It was interesting to see how some students got stumped when they tried to draw an irregular shape to represent a number like 81.
Most students enjoyed this twist (we continued it the next day so they all got to play this version), but a few complained that it made their heads hurt! That's ok...I know they were really thinking and growing mathematically!
The next extension for early finishers (only a few) was to use the icosahedron (20-sided) dice, and have students create area models to cover their grids and find the answer to the multiplication problems. This required a larger grid, so I had them tape 2 pieces of graph paper together and create 20 by 40 grids. Using the icosahedron dice gave a mix of 1-digit by 1-digit, 1 by 2-digit, and 2 by 2-digit problems to model and solve. Most students didn't get very far with this before we ran out of time, but I think this is a great way to them to visualize what multiplying by a two-digit number means. I'd like to revisit this one!
I'm so glad I thought about using those polyhedral dice!
Have you used polyhedral dice in your math classroom? If so, please share how!
Hi, I'm Ellie! My mission here is to support teachers as they work to provide engaging, meaningful experiences for their students. I've been in education for 25 years, teaching all subject areas at both the elementary and middle school levels, and am here to share what I've learned through those years, as well as what I continue to learn. I hope you'll find some ideas or resources here to help you out!