Marvelous Math Stations

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This was the BEST review activity I have ever done!
I even overheard a 7th grade boy say, “Wow, this is FUN!”  That my friends, is hard to do – especially in math class when we are working on solving multi-step inequalities!

I love math stations because:

  1. They allow students to work on their own level, at their own pace.
  2. Students are doing all of the work and problem solving the entire class period instead of watching and copying what I do.
  3. They allow me to work individually with each student as needed.

This is an activity that I use to review a concept or several concepts.  I make about 8 stations with two problems in each station.  I give each student a blank Math Stations Worksheet .  Then, I assign students to the first four stations.  Station 1 has problems that are less difficult, and as students progress through the stations the problems get more difficult.  Students that need more help start out in station 1 with easier problems.  More advanced students are assigned to higher stations according to their ability level.

When students finish with a station, they come to me to see if their answers are correct.  If they are correct, they advance to the next station.  If they are incorrect, I work with the student and then they try again.  They cannot move on to the next station until they master the problem in their current station.

I usually put basic problems or review problems in Station 1.  This is a great way to catch students up who have been absent or are just having a difficult time with a concept.  In levels eight and nine, the problems are challenging.  Not all students will make it to levels eight or nine.  But, if they are able, it allows them to work challenging problems instead of being bored doing the same type of simple problems over and over again.

I also have students carry an index card with them from station to station.  When I help a student with a concept (like – remember to reverse the inequality sign when multiplying or dividing by a negative), they can jot it down on the card.  At the end of class, this card has reminders of the things they had the most trouble with.  I have noticed that most students make the same errors over and over.  Hopefully they will use this card when they get stuck or can’t remember what to do.

Edit: After sharing this with Kristen Fouss after posting, she shared this fabulous activity with me!  I loved her color and her cute idea!  All I had to work with was colored index cards, so I colored coded my stations with the index card answers.  This way they can easily (read quickly) find the answers when they are finished with each station.  Thanks Kristen for inspiring me again!  : )

For quick and easy math station creation using a worksheet, read Quick and Easy Math Stations (aka Pimp Your Worksheets).  🙂

Summary – After the Activity:

I have done station before, but this was the first time I did it according to ability level and with progressively harder problems.

Yes, the stations did get crowded sometimes.  And yes, they are middle school students so they did actually fight over the questions and the answers when a station got too crowded!  What do I think about that?  Hello – they are FIGHTING over math problems!  Consider my job DONE.

They wrote great notes on their individual notecard.  However, they kept leaving it behind at other stations.  Anyone have a solution for that?

They worked like crazy the entire period.  It was loud, it was crazy, it was learning at its best, it was FUN!  I walked around and helped when needed.  Some students needed more help than others.

Some students did all 18 problems!  I couldn’t believe it.  There was only about 5 minutes of class left, so I told the finished students to use their work and find someone to help.  I was the happiest when a student who started in level 1 zoomed through all of the levels and finished all 18 problems before the end of class!  Success is a powerful motivator.

Their suggestions:  At the very end, I asked for their suggestions on how to make this activity better in the future.  They said:

  1. Make more copies of the problems and answers so we don’t have to share (fight) for them.
  2. Less problems, but make them harder
  3. More problems, make them easier
  4. Let us work together when we have a question (I told them they had to figure it out on their own or ask me, sometimes when another student helps them they tell them too much and the student being helped doesn’t learn.  I wanted to make sure everyone was learning).
  5. Bring candy for when we are all done!

Off to a foldable and speed dating tomorrow!

Concept Based Blank Study Guides

I am using a “mini-SBG” system with my classes this year.  They have a list of concepts and a Concept Checklist where they keep track of their progress on each concept.  I give them a pretest before each set of concepts where they can earn a score of B (beginning), D (developing), P (proficient) and E (Exemplary) for each concept.  As we move through the unit, I quiz them on certain concepts, and then they update their Concept Checklist.  (More detail here).

Students always have a hard time studying for chapter / unit tests.  I have them make index cards as we move through the chapter so they will have those to study from.  However, I also want them working extra problems to study before a test.  However, in a large unit it can be difficult for them to pinpoint exactly which problems they need to focus on.  So, I created a blank study guide.

The Blank Study Guide has three sections.  The first section is CONCEPTS and has the students list the concept number and name of any concept that they do not currently have an E on.  I believe I may change this to to however since I grade the concepts very hard and it takes perfection to get an E.

The second section is NOTE CARDS and asks them to list any index cards that they are having trouble remembering, or any vocab words that would like extra work on from the index cards.

The third section is called EXAMPLES and is for working problems.  I tell them to refer to section one and to find at least one example problem from their books or their notes for EACH concept that they listed in section one.

Blank Study Guide
Most of the students who did the study sheet really liked it.  They told me that it helped them know what to study.  Some of the students did not do it, or were confused by it.  But, that is all part of the learning process.  As we do a study guide for each chapter I believe they will become more proficient at completing them.

Making Middle School Magic – Powerpoint Jeopardy!

Yes. Today was simply magical in my 6th grade classes!  They came into class with Weird Al’s “I Lost On Jeopardy” rocking the classroom at full blast!  I had them dancing like crazy before class began.  I even had a few guess, “Are we going to play JEOPARDY?!?!?”

I put them in six groups (two to three students in a group) and gave them whiteboards. The rules were that ALL group members had to agree on the same answer and ALL members had to have all of the correct work on their boards. I went i order around the room and let each group pick a category/point value. However, if they MISSED the question then another group got to try to answer it. I picked this group by rolling a dice.

I used a PowerPoint Jeopardy game that I found online and tweaked. I found a Jeopardy theme song midi online and added it to all of the question slides. Although the music got really old for me by the middle of the second class, it added a bit of fun and even excitement to the game. The music made the kids try to “beat the clock”.

This game went so well! The kids worked harder than I have ever seen them work! Most importantly, they worked together better than I have ever seen! They were all intensely engaged and at the end of class they even BEGGED for just one more math problem!  (Which I of course could not help but give them – to the detriment of their next class, sorry JuRu.)

I need to work on this game some more as several of the links were corrupt. Also, you could not tell which questions had been selected. I am actually going to create my own game with all of the bells and whistles and then post it here so please check back!

Index Card Flip Charts

I have the students make index cards in class each day in place of taking notes on paper.  They keep these index cards on a ring and refer to them for their nightly homework and to study for tests.   My previous post on index cards.

The only problem with this system is that the cards add up rather quickly, especially as you cover more chapters.  I used to have my students “file” these cards by chapter in an index card box after we completed the chapter.  But, there were many problems with this.  The boxes were large so it was difficult to keep them with them and they were left at home or in the locker.  But, the biggest problem was that once they were “filed” the index cards were never to be seen again (we all know how that goes right)?  And, if they did need to refer to one, they had to make an effort to look it up (which meant it never happened).

Brainstorming about this system with some wonderful math teachers on Twitter gave me the idea to put all of the index cards on one sheet of paper after the chapter is finished.  Then druinok took it one step further and came up with the fabulous suggestion of making a “flip chart” of the finished cards.  I loved this idea and ran with it!

Now, once the chapter is complete I have them take the index cards off of the ring and tape them to a piece of card stock.  They keep this sheet in the “permanent” section of their notebooks the entire year.   I have them do this so that they can quickly and easily refer back to concepts that we covered in past chapters.  After the flip chart is made, they can clean all of the paper from the past chapter out of their notebooks (additional notes, warm-ups, and homework they have completed).  This replaces many pages in their notebooks with one page.  So, they will have ONE index card flip chart per chapter that they keep in their notebooks.  This will hopefully help when we are using a concept that we learn (like simplifying algebraic expressions on a new concept like solving equations that involve algebraic expressions that they have to first simplify).

Here are some pictures of the student flip charts for chapter one, concepts 1 – 5.

To make the flip chart work, you need to ensure that the students flip the cards up when writing on the back so that the notes won’t be upside down.   Once the students started taping the cards to the charts, the magic started happening.  Students are fabulously intelligent and creative and always give me my best ideas.  They came up with three things that I LOVE.

  • Writing the title of the card at the bottom so you can see what cards are underneath
  • Writing and circling the concept number right next to the title so that you can easily go to a concept you love.
  • Writing the concept name on the card stock next to the cards so you can see where each concept is.

Suggestions and comments are always welcome!   : )

How to Study: Index Card Method – Linking it to Standards Based Learning

I have my students make index cards instead of taking notes on paper.  Then we hole-punch them and put them on a silver ring.  Think 1st grade site word list here.  The kids enjoy making them and don’t mind going over them before tests.  I have some vocab but mostly example problems on the cards.  To study, I tell my students to rework the index card problems on a separate sheet of paper until they can get it right without looking at the answer on the back of the card.   **  I like Kate’s cover, copy, repeat and am going to add the “copy” part this year. **  I tell them to take the index card off of the ring once they know it cold.

In the past I have had the students make the notecards on test review day as their in-class review.  Then, they used these cards to study for their test.  This year I am going to have my students make the cards as we go along instead of making them all on the same day at then end of the unit.  Then they can look at them to help with homework or review work.

I read a post from Jason about teaching students how to study.  This made me think about how to make the cards more useful to the students as I incorporate Standards Based Learning this year.  So, on the front of each index card I am going to have the students write   “CONCEPT #1”   in the top right hand corner.  As they plug along on their concept checklist, if they need help with a concept they will know which index card(s) they need to access for additional help and study.  They can keep these cards on their ring until they reach a 4 or 5 (mastery) on the concept list.

That is all I have so far!  I would love any tweeks or additional thoughts as I am very much in the planning stages now.


They write the notecards from my Powerpoint slides – like this.

After each chapter is finished, I have them take the cards off of the ring and make “Flip Charts” for each chapter.  Read all about it and see pictures of the finished flip charts here.