“Speed Dating” Review – Get Them Moving!

“Speed Dating” is a very easy way to spice up a review / practice day.  It’s a quick twist on an otherwise long day of just working review problems, especially when we have too much material to get through for some of my favorite games like Trasketball or Survivor.  I do it a bit differently than it has been done in math classes previously.**  Each students sits with one partner to do one problem that I project.  They each work on individual whiteboards, but talk together while working.  I walk around and answer questions while they work.  After we finish each problem, one person at each table rotates to the next table.  The same people move all period.  I usually have them do a quick rock, paper, scissors, to determine who has to move.

I usually have the students put everything away and clear off all of the tables.  Then, I have them put their bookbags against the walls so everyone can move around the room more easily.  I really like that they don’t have all of their “stuff” out during this activity as I think it helps them focus on just the math and their partner.

I make a big deal about saying “HI!” to your new date after every rotation.  I also tell them to be a good date by talking and helping each other out.  Occasionally I will have an odd number, then I just put three people at one table.

I think it works so well for two reasons.  First, the kids are moving all period long, which helps them stay alert. Second, they are working with a new partner for each problem.  The combination of these two things keeps them more interested and alert than the normal review day.   I also love doing groups of two because each student feels more responsible for helping their “date” and getting the work completed together.

**The original “Speed Dating” in Math Class idea came from the amazing Kate Nowak.  She does it a bit differently, where each student is an expert on a certain problem and then explains it to others.  I like that as well when it is a review with different types of problems, but use this method when I need the same type of problems to get progressively more complicated for the entire class.

My Favorite Math Games

Playing game in math class can engage even my most reluctant students.  It is so inspiring to see them light up with competition!  For this weeks challenge I decided to compile all of the games that I have blogged about in the past.  Most of the games listed below include powerpoint templates that I have created.  I always forget about the great games I have used in the past and hope this will be a good reminder for me and anyone else who may need it!

My top three for high school are Math Survivor, Trasketball, and Speed Dating!

Math Survivor Game (Powerpoint Template included) – This is currently my FAVORITE game that I play in class.  I usually play it on review days.  I love seeing kids make alliances screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-8-53-16-am
Trasketball (Powerpoint Template included) – Another great review game that is always a big hit with the kids.  I love to get them up and moving. photo-1
Speed Dating – Great to get kids working with different people all period. HS students will be embarrassed bc of the name and work quietly. lol! Thanks Kate!
Row Games – These are partner activities for specific topics instead of a general review. Thanks Kate!
Flyswatter Review Game (Powerpoint Template included) – Students screen-shot-2011-05-12-at-9-21-00-am
Matho (Powerpoint Template included) Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 11.13.55 AM
Draw It! Game (Powerpoint Template included) – Students compete by writing or drawing  or Screen Shot 2017-10-08 at 10.03.50 AM
Add It Up Partner Activity Thanks Rachel! 20120929-131353
Kahoot – I have used other online quiz games, but my students always beg for Kahoot. IMG_3157
Zero Game for Integer Operations – Great middle school game! img_3850
Euclid the Game (Geometry) – This is a game that helps kids learn constructions. screen-shot-2014-09-07-at-9-39-41-pm
Favorite Middle School Math Class Games – A Compilation

First Day 2017-18

The FIRST DAY is SO EXCITING!  Even though I am not ready to go back to school yet (I still have so much I wanted to get done and …. SUMMER), I love thinking about the first day back.  I can’t wait to actually meet and interact with the amazing young learners that I will get to work with this year.  Their enthusiasm for learning is at a high the first days of school and I am excited to harness that and turn it into amazing math!

I do not go over my course guidelines the first day.  I would rather spend that day getting to know my kids, having them get to know each other, and playing with math!  I have found that it is better to go over one guideline every day or so in the first few weeks, as they naturally come up.  I usually say, “Refer to this place in your syllabus.” in response to a student question.  This reminds students that the syllabus taped in their notebooks is a great place to look for important information that they may need.

Sarah Vanderwerf is a thoughtful educator and you should definitely follow her blog if you don’t already.  Basically my entire first day is coming from her!  Last year I did Sarah’s name tents and I loved them!  I think my students liked them as well because later in the year I learned that some students had shared part of their name tent on Snapchat.  I also noticed some of them kept their name tents in their notebooks.  Even though replying to name tents took a lot of work the first week, getting to know each of my students better was worth it, especially if they appreciated it as well.  I also did Sarah’s 100’s Task later in the week last year.  But I loved it so much I am doing it on the first day this year!

Our first day has very short class periods, only 25 minutes long, so I don’t have time for much. We still have almost two weeks until school starts so my first day plans aren’t firmed up completely yet, but this is what I am thinking.

  • Greet students at the door with a Hi-Five and instruct them to look for their seat.
  • I always have a seating chart the first day to help ease student anxiety.  I will have their names on their tables and may even project it.
  • Name tents will be waiting at their tables to give them something to start on before class starts.  I am a die hard “bell to bell” teacher and there is no better time to start this than the first day! I will have an example name tent for them on each table.
  • Display what they need for my class this year and briefly talk about it while they finish their name tents.
  • Have student introduce themselves to the other students at their table.
  • Have each student write down their favorite movie, ice cream, and vacation spot.  Then each table group compares answers to determine the favorite move, ice cream and vacation spot of the group.  After they finish, they will share their group answers with the class.  We did this in our CPM training and it was a fun and low stress ice breaker activity.  (I may not have time for this, and may have to push it to day 2).  I will pass out textbooks during this time.
  • 100’s Task!  I will take pics of the action!
  • Discuss 100’s Task and share the pics I took to show them what great group work looks like! I’m not sure how I will record this yet.  I will either write it on the white board or type their responses into a google doc so I can print it out and share it with them.  (I may do this on day 2 so I have time for the ice breaker above).
  • Closing. I’m terrible at class closure.  I’m going to set a 5 minute timer on my watch so I can remind myself daily to close the lesson.  Not sure what this looks like yet. They will need to clean up their tables and turn in their name tents.  I don’t know if I will have time for an additional closing activity!  This may just be a time for me to say goodbye and have a great day!

Math Survivor Game!

Math Survivor!  Which team will be eliminated first?  Which team can survive?

img_9343After reading about Grudgeball on Elissa’s site and then here, I couldn’t wait to try it.  I decided to call it Math Survivor since we were “voting teams out of the competition”, and I didn’t have them shoot a nerf ball.  I’m glad I eliminated the nerf ball, because the voting people off took forever by itself!

I love jumping right in and trying new things.  However, sometimes this means I fail.  And fail I did at first!  I must have misread the instructions.  I thought that ALL teams got to erase x’s each time.  That made sense to me, as why else would they work hard to get the question correct?  However, it became obvious during my first class, when ALL teams were quickly eliminated, that my game had a flaw.  I adjusted it for the next class, letting them add points back more easily, but then everyone was just tied.  Finally, for my third class, I decided to let only one team at a time take off x’s.  DUH.  To keep kids active, I told them that if the team voting x’s off missed the question, I would roll dice to see which team got to take their turn.  This keep everyone motivated for every question.

The game I made is for Piecewise Functions and Transformations, but I also made a blank template.  Here are my rules, templates are below.

Goal:  To be the last team standing (still have x’s)


  1. Every team starts with 10 x’s.
  2. Every team works on every question.  Only one team at a time gets to eliminate x’s for each question.  I just rotated around the room.
  3. One team at a time gets to erase 2 x’s, if they get the question correct.  They can erase 2 x’s from one team, or erase one x from two teams.  They cannot commit suicide  (erase their own x’s).
  4.  If the designated team misses the question, then another team gets to erase the two x’s.  I rolled dice to decide which team.  You could also pick popsicle sticks.
  5. Once a team is eliminated, they cannot add x’s back, but they can still vote other teams out!  (Some teachers let teams add points back or eliminate x’s).
  6. I let kids make alliances.  It almost never works out!  Just like in the real Survivor, alliances quickly crumble.  lol!
  7. TIP:  Only let one person per group erase and make them decide BEFORE coming up to the board who they are going to eliminate.  Otherwise, peers from the other teams can influence them once they are at the board.  I even do a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… count down.  You can also ask them (have them write it on a white board, and erase the x’s yourself if you have a very enthusiastic or overly competitive class).

Blank Template and Piecewise Functions and Transformations Template.

Update: Thanks to the Twittersphere, I had some great feedback from Bowen Kerins!



Fill Out This Form to Connect With Other Math Teachers On Kahoot!

There are thousands of public Kahoots! made by teachers to chose from.  Kahoot! has a search feature that allows you to search by title, subject, tag, or username.  You can also share a Kahoot! that you have made with another teacher if you know their username.

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Since my Kahoot! post, I have found that many math teachers that I know also use Kahoot! and are using it in ways that I have not even thought of.  For instance, Laura Wheeler uses Kahoot! a few times a week as a warm up for a fun way to do spiraling reviews.  I would love to easily find and see her reviews, since we both teach high school math.

Then, as is often the case, an amazing idea was born on Twitter.  Wouldn’t it be GREAT if we knew our math teacher friends Kahoot! user names?  Then, we could search and share with teachers that we know.  Additionally, if teachers would tag the Kahoots! they use with MTBoS, we could also search that way.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.41.48 AM Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.41.38 AM Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 10.41.48 AM

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Sharing your Kahoot!

So, please fill out this form if you are interested in easily sharing the Kahoots! that you create and use with other math teachers.  I asked for the subjects you teach so that other teachers can more easily find teachers that have similar needs.  And don’t worry if you don’t make your own Kahoots!  I rarely make Kahoots! from scratch.  But, I do go through each Kahoot! I use carefully, and often edit them, so other teachers would probably benefit from the Kahoots! that I use.  If you are not already using Kahoot!, you need to sign up for a free Kahoot! account here to get your username.

Here are the results: Google Form of MTBoS Kahoot! user names.

Once you finish the form, you will be directed to a Google Form of MTBoS Kahoot! user names.

How to Search and Add Tags in Kahoot!

Also, to search by tag, you can’t just enter mtbos.  You have to type in doc.tags:mtbos.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 11.18.55 AM

Don’t forget to tag your Kahoot! with MTBoS after you finish making it.

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Fill out this form to connect with other math teachers on Kahoot!

Fill out this form to connect with other math teachers on Kahoot!

Trashketball is AMAZING

It took me FOUR YEARS to get these Trashketball directions down to a science.  My kids can just read them and we are ready to go.  Plus, I have never seen my afternoon class of freshmen boys work so hard, on FRIDAY.  It almost made me cry from joy.  I seriously wish I could play Trashketball everyday.  Every. Day.

photo 1 photo 4

I have included my Trashketball Powerpoint instructions for you to show your students.  It is crucial that they all pick a letter, M A T H or O, and that you randomly call them up by this letter to show you their answer and thus get to shoot.  This way ALL students are actively working out the problem on their own paper.  Then they work as a team to make sure everyone understands and gets the same answer.  It is amazing.  I use popsicle sticks to call out the letter.  They get one point for the correct answer.  If they get the correct answer, they get to shoot from the 2-pt or 3-pt line.  Also, I hung it from the wall with a Command hook, but the students want it higher.  lol!

photo 3 photo 2

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 7.44.16 PM

Screen Shot 2014-10-03 at 7.40.56 PMFun stuff:  I play “Are You Ready To Rumble” from Jock Jams while they are reading the directions.  I have this COOL trashket I found a couple of years ago.  I have a 2-pt line and a 3-pt line.  It is a blast!  But best of all, they are so focused and work so hard!  Games for the win again!  I made dry-erase index card necklaces to write their letter on for middle schoolers, but my high school students wanted to wear them as well.  I really love freshmen.

I bought the Trashketball online at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for only $10!!

Math Games Collection on Google Docs – Add Your Game Today!

In a recent Middle School Math Chat  (#msMathChat, Mondays at 9PM EST), Adrienne, @shlagteach, suggested that we create a Google Doc compilation of games for math class.  Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 8.44.51 AMSo, I created a Math Games for the Classroom Google Spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet lists the game, the concept or standard the game teaches, and the rules for each game.

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 12.18.05 PM

Please add a math game to the spreadsheet.  You can add an individual game, or if you know of a collection of games, you can add it to the “Collections” page.  Thanks so much to John Golden, @mathhombre, for adding the Collections page and several collections!

Games 1 It would be really helpful if you have blogged about your game, so that you can go into detail explaining it, and then include a link to your blog post in the Spreadsheet.  If you haven’t blogged about the game you want to add, this would be an excellent opportunity to do so!

Bill Carrera had an idea for a great activity using the spreadsheet. He had his students read the Math Games Google Spreadsheet and pick a game to learn and play.  He even had the students create their own games and teach it to someone else!

I would love to hear any other great ideas or what you are doing in your classroom with math games!

Snowball Fight Icebreaker

I have never needed to lead an icebreaker – until #TMC13 when I facilitated the Middle School Math Morning Sessions.  I teach at a small private school.  Almost all of our kids have known each other since early elementary school.  The class size goes from 16 to 32 from 5th to 6th grade.  However, they have tons of bonding time and activities together before they go to math class so I don’t really need to do an icebreaker.

I was nervous about leading the MS Morning session, especially since we had almost 40 people signed up!  Several participants had told me they were nervous too so I wanted an icebreaker that would be fun and get us moving.  Since there were too many people in the room to do musical chairs, we had a snowball fight instead!  This was my first time every doing a “Snowball Fight” but I think it turned out pretty well.  I sure had fun and people were laughing, so I think it made us all loosen up a bit that first morning of TMC.  I wish I had taken a picture!

SNOWBALL FIGHT! – How to Play:

  1. Don’t tell them you are having a snowball fight!
  2. Give everyone a half sheet of paper.  You should play too!
  3. Have everyone write their name and three things about themselves on the paper.  You can let them write whatever or chose things for them to write about.  @pegcagle suggested two truths and a lie, which incorporates TWO icebreakers!
  4. After everyone is finished, tell them to crumple their paper up.  You will get strange looks.
  5. Then, tell them to have a snowball fight!  We kept picking up the paper and throwing it for a few minutes.  I would suggest this as the first throw is someone curious/skeptical/reserved and people have more fun as they throw more.  Don’t let them throw too much or it could get crazy.  😉
  6. Call cease snowball!  Then have everyone grab a snowball.
  7. I start to model what to do.  I called out the name on the paper and then read their three things.  Then they read and so on.

** Warning – You may lose a snowball!  We did!  In that case, you will have to improvise.  This ended up funny and then even more funny when we found their snowball later.  I would tell the lost snowball that their snowball has magic hiding powers and then offer them a treat so they won’t feel bad.

Variations – 

  • You could leave the name off and let students guess who it was after reading the things?  I’m not sure I like this as much though bc I really liked looking at the people when they were being talked about.  However, it may be less embarrassing for students if people aren’t looking at them when their items are read.  Thoughts?
  • It would be fun for everyone to get in a line according to whose snowball they have.  Then they would all have to ask names and talk to each other (if they didn’t know each other) in order to line up.
  • I think this could also work really well as an activity instead of an icebreaker using math questions.  Students could make up a math question, have a snowball fight, and then solve the problem on a snowball they pick up.  They could then get with the person to see if their answer’s matched.

I have only done this once and never in a class of students.  I think that it would be fun as an activity in addition to an ice breaker.  I would love to hear any variations that you have done – or can come up with – in the comments!

Area Formula Game – Draw It!

My students love this!  And, it gets them up out of their seats.

The students are in two teams, lined up sitting in chairs.  The first person of each team goes to the board with a dry-erase marker in hand.  At the top of the Powerpoint I post a question.  The first person to (legibly) write the answer in their spot wins the point.  I usually play this with Geometry and they draw pictures so I called it “Draw It”.  I think I made this up but I can’t honestly remember.  🙂

This is hard to explain so today I made a video of some of my students playing it.  These amazing students volunteered to come in during their recess to play for me!  Did I mention how much I love 6th grade!  

Draw It Game Video Example on YouTube


The ppt is also on Slideshare.

Zero! Game for Integer Operations and Absolute Value

I got this amazing game from Denise at Let’s Play Math.  It is played like Blackjack because the kids are dealt 2 cards, and can say “Hit Me!” to get up to 4 cards.  They love, love, love it.

Supplies Needed:

  • Zero Game Sheet (below) for each player
  • 1 deck of cards per group of students (3 to 4 students per group).  It doesn’t matter if the decks are missing cards or mixed up.

Object of the Game – Getting the total absolute value score closest to Zero!

Object of each HAND – Getting each hand closest to Zero!

How to Play:

  1. Red cards are negative, black are positive. Jacks – 11, Queens – 12, Kings -13 Aces 1 or 14 (depending what you need).
  2. Deal each player 2 cards.  One facing up and a hidden one facing down.
  3. Each player adds up their cards to see if they are close to zero.  They can say “Hit Me” and get another card.  They can get up to FOUR cards but must use all of their cards in their final total.  They can also HOLD at two cards.
  4. Once everyone is finished being “Hit” all cards are turned over.  Each player writes all of their cards down and then adds up their total in the total box.  The person with the smallest total wins the hand and gets to be the dealer!
  5. Each player finds the absolute value of their total in the absolute value column.
  6. When time is up, each player adds up the absolute value column.  The person closest to zero wins the game!

I usually have a winner for each group of people playing, and then a winner for the entire room!  This really gets them excited when we see kids who have very low total scores.  It is great fun and the kids BEG to play it for many days after we play it the first time.  It is also great practice!  Just be sure that they are writing down their numbers so you can check their sums if needed.

Zero Game Sheet

Instructions via ppt presentation (prepared for Global Math Dept presentation):


  • If your students don’t know absolute value yet, you can just leave the last column blank.  Just add up the sum of the Totals column to determine the game winner.
  • I used to let them do multiplication and division but it gets very complicated.  They have more fun (and get to practice combining integers more) by just doing addition.
  • You could also use a + , – dice and have the dealer roll it each round to see if everyone at the table should do addition or subtraction of negative numbers (to make it more difficult).