My Favorite: Spider Match


Today, I want to share one of my favorite games for students to play to strengthen their adding and subtracting skills with integers. It is called Spider Match.

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The object of this multi-player game is to grab as many pairs of flies that add up to the number in the middle of the spider web before your opponents see the pair.  The student with the most matches wins the round.

The game can be played with up to four people. So to start, I group my students according to ability and have them move their desks so that they are sitting near each other.  One student is in charge of setting the game up with a password and setting it up as a private game.  The person in charge then gives the password to the other students in the group so that they can enter the game.  After a few rounds, I change the groups and have all the winners play each other, the second place students play each other, etc.

Usually I have students play this game while we are studying integers.  However, this game would be great to use on the day before a break when it is hard to keep students focused.  I hope your students enjoy the game as much as mine do.

Slope and Scavenger Hunts

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post.  However, the MTBos 2016 Initiative has gotten me inspired to get back into blogging.  I was also encouraged by Kate Novak’s blog to write about the basic stuff.  These types of posts appeal to me especially since I am more of a small projects type of teacher.

I like activities that have little preparation and get students out of their seats.  Scavenger hunts fit the bill on both counts.  The most recent scavenger hunt that I have done with my 8th grade pre-algebra class is Finding the Slope of Two Points on a Graph – Scavenger Hunt.  All I had to do was print off the cards, laminate them so I could use them again, hang them up around my classroom, and print a copy of the recording sheet for each student.

Sure, students could just count the number of spaces up/down and to the right/left to find the slope.  However, I told students that I wanted them to give me the two ordered pairs that corresponded with the points on the graph and then to find the slope by using the change in y over the change in x.

To help with organization, I printed off a 4 x 3 blank table on the back of the recording sheet so they had a spot to to complete each problem.  When students got stuck, they or I could easily go box by box to see where they made a mistake.

This year I bought enough clipboards for each student.  This has made a big difference in the neatness of their work.  Now, instead of students using the wall or several students trying to cram their papers on one small desk, students have their own work space.

What a great way to get students to do 12 problems while being able to move about the room!

Putting together the INB

This will be the third year that I use an INB in my 7th grade math class.  I like that all of the notes are kept in one place and that it makes taking notes a bit more fun.  The one thing that I didn’t like last year was the amount of time needed to cut out the foldable and glue them in.  Students would take vast amounts of time to cut out the foldable and then use way to much glue so that the page was too wet to write on.  I was always reminding students to not be “gloppy gluers.”  Since I didn’t want to give up the INB, I decided I needed to find a way for students to do the cutting and glueing at home.  As a trial run, I made a few videos on YouTube for the first chapter for students to view.  These videos explained how to cut out the foldables and which page to glue each handout on.  I did not make one video for the entire chapter, but I split up the information into five short videos.  On the day the assignment is given, I hand them a packet of pages that are needed for that particular video. Here is the first video for that chapter.   I’m not keen on seeing myself in the videos, but it has allowed for more class time to spend on math.  Now if there was a way to get rid of the “gloppy gluers” …

Visuals for Area Formulas

March came and went in a blur!  And now it is the last week of April already. During the month of April, the 7th graders were studying the area formulas for rectangles, parallelograms triangles, trapezoids, and circles.  Instead of just giving students a formula, I wanted them to understand where the formula came from.

We started with the area of a rectangle and parallelogram.  Since I was out that day, I changed this activity to a step-by-step instruction from so students could work independently to discover the formula for a parallelogram.  When I got back the next day, we reviewed the activity and I put a large visual on one of my bulletin boards that I made from poster board.


Then we found the area of a triangle and trapezoid by cutting the parallelogram in half.



Finally, we cut a circle into equal-sized sectors and arranged them to resemble a parallelogram.   Since the circle has an area closely related to the parallelogram, we used the formula for the area of a parallelogram to find the area of a circle.


Whenever we did an activity involving the formulas and students asked me what a specific formula was, I pointed to the bulletin board and asked them what they thought it would be.  We continually referred back to the visuals and talked about how the formulas were derived.  The visuals will stay up through our unit on volume.  Hopefully, students will understand the formulas rather than just memorize them.


How can proportions be used to make scale drawings of objects accurate?

IMG_1114I love teaching rates, ratios, and proportions because there are so many hands-on projects and activities that students can do.  Scale drawing is one of the sections in this unit that has many ways to be creative.

In the past, I have had students make a scale drawing of my classroom in floor  This program allows students to make 2-D and 3-D representations of my room. However, I wanted students to see how a scale drawing worked with paper and pencil.  So I came up with the Mickey Mouse Scale Drawing Activity.  In this project, students had to draw an enlarged version of Mickey Mouse.


I found a picture of Mickey Mouse on Google images and copied it onto an 8 1/2″ by 11″ piece of graph paper.  Then, I gave students an 11″ by 13″ piece of paper with larger squares on it.  Students had to copy Mickey Mouse box by box.  I explained that it was not an art class on free drawing.  Rather, it was the ability to figure out where each line started and ended in each box.  I chose a picture that had a lot of curves in it so that they could see that it was about using proportions rather than a ruler.  Also, I deliberately chose not to center Mickey Mouse on the original copy so that students would have to figure this out on their own.

At first, students complained that the picture was too difficult to draw.  However, in the end, most students were very impressed with their ability to make Mickey Mouse look almost as good as the original picture.

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Below is the rubric that I created for this assignment.


Lately, I have noticed that my 7th graders do not want to take the time to read the instructions on their own.  They would rather come up to me to find if they completed everything properly. So with this project, we read over the rubric together on the first day that the project was assigned.  After that, if a student came up to me to ask if they were finished or if it looked right or if they were doing it right, I would gently remind them to review the rubric.  In the end, most students followed the instructions well and I was less frustrated because they stopped asking the same questions when they realized my answer was the same – read the rubric.  Hopefully, this carries over to the next project!

My Version of Sarah Hagan’s Road Trip Project

While studying proportions, I wanted to give my students a real-world application, as well as, a fun activity.  I thought that Day One of  Sarah Hagan’s Pre-Algebra Road Trip Project fit the bill perfectly.  It allowed each student to make choices on which five cities they wanted to visit and it gave them practice in solving proportions using a scale.

As an introduction to the project, we watched this YouTube video explaining the project.  The teacher in the video did a great job covering the technical aspects of the project.  I think my students listened more intently to the teacher in the video than if I stood up in front of the class and explained it.

Since I wanted students to be able to work independently and for them to read instructions without constantly raising their hand to ask me what else they needed to do, I made a step-by-step instructions sheet to go with the project.

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For easier grading purposes, I wanted all of the work to be done on one sheet, so I combined some of the steps and came up with this handout.  However, if the work space was not big enough, I allowed students to complete their work on a separate piece of lined paper.

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I’m not sure if I am alone on this, but I have a hard time grading solely using a rubric.  It just seems so harsh.  And I don’t know what to do with some of the miscellaneous items that I feel are important, but don’t seem to fit in one of the categories.  So, I improvised and put a few such categories at the bottom of the rubric that I felt were valuable, but only worth a point or two.

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Finally,  I wanted students to realize that because they were drawing straight lines between cities and not using actual roads to come up with the distances, their total mileage would probably not be an accurate measurement of their road trip.  As a result, I thought it would be fun for students to go on the Internet and find the actual mileage their road trip would be and then find the difference between the two mileage amounts.

I have done this for two years now and both times I was amazed at how many student forget how to use a ruler, how to estimate to the nearest quarter of an inch, how to multiply with decimals or fractions (even though we covered both of these concepts already), and how to find the difference between two numbers (subtract, not add).  It’s as if students put each unit that we’ve covered in a separate box and close the lid when the chapter test is completed.  Keeping that information available to use at any given moment is a challenge.  It reminded me that spiral review like this is so important!

Overall, I loved this project!  Thank you, Sarah Hagan!!

Sugar Packets and Proportions Activity

I’m always thinking of how to change the class up a bit so that students stay engaged.


Our school just purchased high tables and stools for the middle hallway.  I “borrowed” them, put only two stools at each table, and let the students pick who their partner would be.  It’s amazing that this small change in the classroom setting brought a lot of excitement.  It was a great setting for this activity.

After reviewing proportions, I showed them Act One of  Dan Meyer’s Three-Act Sugar Packet video.  Since my students love Estimation 180, I had them give an answer that was too high, an answer that was too low, and their guess.  Next, I asked students what information they would need to solve the problem.  The students realized that they needed to know how much sugar is in each packet (4 g) and how much sugar is in the soda bottle (65 g).  I provided the pictures of the nutrition labels for the soda bottle and the sugar packet (Act Two).  I had students set up proportions to solve for the correct number of packets.  Then, I showed the un-edited video (Act Three).

After the video reveal, I used a part of Sarah Hagan’s idea to extend this activity.  I took out 6 – 8 bottles of different beverages.  Each group picked one bottle to start out with.  Using proportions, students had to calculate the number of sugar packets in three different beverages.


I made a handout for the students to work on.  They had to put the name of the beverage on the top of the bottle, the proportion with their work in the middle of the bottle, and the answer with a label at the bottom of the bottle.  Afterwards, students cut out the handout and glued it into their interactive notebook.

Overall, students were engaged for the entire period.  They enjoyed being able pick their seat and partner, and they liked an activity that uses a real-world situation with something they can relate to. What teenager does not drink soda or juice?  Next year, if it falls on a longer period, I want to use some of Sarah Hagan’s other ideas of ranking the beverages from least to greatest according to their sugar content and creating a graph of the data.  So many great ideas, so little time!

Changing a Worksheet into a Group Activity

Getting students to stay engaged is always a challenge.  Sometimes they need to practice a specific concept, but giving out a worksheet is just plain boring.  While studying unit rates and best buy with my 7th graders, I had students work with a partner to create a poster using this worksheet.  Students doing column A were given yellow paper and students doing column B were given green paper.  Each student had to show long division for each problem.


After students finished their column, they got together with their partner to create a poster showing the best buy for each category.

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Afterwards, we got together as a class and went over the correct answers.  At that time, we also talked about what makes a good poster.  Then, we voted for the poster with the best title and for the best poster overall.  Not a bad way to get students to do ten best buy problems! It took a little more time, but it was well worth it.

The Pyramid Game or A Race to the Top

After our #eduread chat and to further explain what I can’t in 140 characters or less, I was motivated/encouraged to blog about a game that I use in my class. I have always called it “The Pyramid Game,” but I noticed that other teachers call it “A Race to the Top”. It is a very versatile game, because it can be used with many different mathematical topics. Here is a great template made by Joanne Miller of Head over Heels for Teaching. I like to use a smaller version of this when I do not have that much time.


I have students draw five lines on the bottom row, four lines on the next row, until they have one line on the top row.


I give the students the numbers for the bottom row. Usually, I give them every other number until we are all ready to go.


Then I fill in the other two numbers and tell them if they are adding, subtracting, multiplying, or dividing.

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If they are adding, students add the two numbers next to each other and put the answer on the line above. They complete each row the same way until they get to the top. For incentive in my class, the first five students with the correct answer get a piece of candy. Each time, I stand in a different spot in the room to make things fair in their eyes, and students come up to me so I can see their answer.  If it’s correct, I say, “Number 1” for the first correct answer, “”Number 2” for the second correct answer, until I have five or so correct answers.  If a student has the wrong answer I tell them to try again and they go back to their seat to re-work the problem.  Ihave used this with integers and algebraic expressions with great success. Also, it is a great way to spiral back to review these concepts throughout the year. Please let me know if you use this game in another way, because I am always looking for ways to keep the students engaged in a fun and easy to prepare activity.

Activities to get students moving

After our Wednesday #eduread discussion on strategies to get kids up and moving, I thought I’d mention several activities I used in my 7th grade unit on decimals. I believe that students not only like to get out of their seats, but they also like variety.


The first activity that I had my students work on was balancing a checkbook. I handed them 11 checks and 4 deposits slips. They had to put them in order and then fill out the ledger sheet. For some of the students who needed a challenge, their account became overdrawn, giving them the practice with negative numbers.


For an activity in which everyone would review adding positive and negative decimals, I reworked The Bathers of Asnieres activity from Gunter Schymkiw’s Math Masterpieces so that the problems included adding with positive and negative decimals. Students did the problems first, which I copied onto construction paper. Once they showed me that they completed every problem, I gave them the second sheet, which was copied on regular copy paper. Students cut the squares out and glued them on the construction paper so that it created a picture. Since I wouldn’t be able to see their work after the squares were glued on, I walked around making sure students were not just figuring out the picture, but were checking their answers. Even though students were not up and out of their seats, using scissors and glue was different than the normal routine.


Finally, after reviewing adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing decimals, I hosted a Dining with Decimals day, which I tweaked from Kelsey Gage’s Dining with Decimals.  While students sat at tables with tablecloths and name cards and ate popcorn and drank iced tea, they chose an appetizer, dinner entrée, a beverage, and a dessert from the menu on the table. They had to figure out the cost of the bill. Then they added a 20% tip to the cost. Finally, they had to figure out if $20 was enough to cover their meal. With each computation, students were also finding the estimate. Again, they were not up and out of their seats, but the atmosphere was different.