Too often in math we bore our students to tears with a monotonous deluge of practice problems. We have them solve for x until their fingers blister and distribute until their eyes bleed. However, practice is essential to mathematics and to the mastery of any subject. This is obvious considering that 2 of the 5 the major components of a standard lesson plan have “practice” in the title (referring to guided practice, and independent practice).
The question is, how can we create opportunities for our students to practice in novel and exciting ways? Many excellent teachers have a handful of anecdotes about wacky things they have tried. My personal favorite is reading about Ron Clark and the insane activities he does with his students.
The picture above shows how I implemented one such activity- Balloon Math. I have had my students practicing equation solving for days now (one-step, 2-step, variables on both sides, etc.) I could tell their patience was wearing thin with the topic. To spice things up I had my homeroom blow up 60 balloons and place a balled up piece of paper in each. In class I gave each child a challenge problem, an expo marker, and a balloon.
Each child was instructed to solve the problem and check it correctly ON their balloon. The consequences for premature popping were severe! However, once the students had successfully solved and checked their equations they were given the mighty teachers pen to pop their balloons.
Inside each balloon the note read something along the lines of “fantastic work” or “good job” or, my personal favorite, “you’re an AlgeBRO”. Another variation of this would be to have each paper have a prize written on it such as “Starburst” or “jolly rancher”.
This activity had all of my students excited to work out the math and finally checking their answers. They appreciated doing the same old thing in a new way and I marveled at the level of buy-in the activity promoted.
I’d love to hear what kind of activities you all have used to spice up your classrooms!?!?
Thanks for reading,