Math BreakoutEdu

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Today is the last day before my school’s Spring Break. Generally, my classes end up finishing up a particular unit before a large break. This time is different. Both my fourth and fifth grade classes are in the middle of a unit.   I’m also finding that both classes are due for some review. Foundational pieces involving place value and order of operations are tripping up some of the students. While looking around for resources, I came across a BreakoutEdu that corresponds with March Madness. I need to give a huge shoutout to Rita for creating this game. I’ve used Breakout in my class before, but am still in the rookie stage. I printed out the files and started to compile them last week. I figured out which locks where needed and started to compile a few different ideas on how it would work.

What’s great is that my school’s media specialist, the fantastic @mrsread, has a teacher BreakoutEdu box that’s available for checkout. I was able to checkout the box and fiddle with the locks earlier this week. I was able to get most of the locks figured out and reset to the codes needed for the activity.  I say most and not all because the multi-lock is still giving me issues. After checking on the forums it seems like this tends to happen more frequently than I originally thought.

After becoming a bit more confident in how to use the set in my own classroom, I decided to use the Breakout with a fourth grade math class this past Thursday. Since I couldn’t use the multi-lock, I decided to use a combination lock that I had at home. I put together a small Google form that coordinated with that particular lock. The next day I spent my planning period organizing the materials. I decided to go with manila envelopes to store the papers and deviously hid them around the classroom. I introduced the game with the slide show in the file at the bottom of this post.

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From the March Madness Breakout PowerPoint

The kids were excited as they already completed a Breakout a few months ago. I told the students that four manila folders were in the room and they had to find them to locate the clues to open the box. I then started the timer and they were off.


The class of 21 split themselves fairly evenly and started working on the tasks. It just so happened the Google form was completed quickly and one of the locks was open in less than five minutes. That wasn’t my intention.  I was hoping it would be a bit more challenging.   The other tasks, especially the order of operations, took more than 20 minutes to complete. I noticed that around 4-5 students would be working on the sheet while others congregated and tried to find more clues. Some of the kids were making simple errors with the order of operations. The bracket challenge was also tricky, as some students didn’t understand how a bracket worked. Students would complete the bracket and not understand that the larger number would move on to the next section. I could tell that students were getting frustrated as time ticked away.   I didn’t interject although I wanted to help. Eventually, students had to use a hint card, but they prevailed. We had a great conversation afterwards using the Breakout reflection cards. This was also great for me to hear, as students gave feedback about which particular tasks were the most difficult and how they contributed to their team.

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The Breakout worked so well that I decided to use it with my fifth graders the next day. I changed up the Google form piece and made it more aligned to what we’ve been learning over the past few months. I even added a question where students had to translate a problem from German to English. I may or may not have had a ton of fun helping create questions for the game.

Overall, the game went just as well with the fifth grade group, although they had more trouble with the locks. They were a bit confused with the combination lock. Once they figured out at that skill the class opened up the final locks with about 15 minutes or so to spare. The class didn’t have time to review the reflection cards. I’m hoping we can take those out after spring break is over.

Rita’s files for this Breakout can be accessed here. Feel free to use the Google forms (1) (2) that can be copied and used as well.

Author: Matt Coaty

I've taught elementary students for the past 14 years. I enjoy reading educational research and learning from my PLN. Words on this blog are my own.

One thought on “Math BreakoutEdu”

  1. One of my colleagues did one of these in a Spanish class recently. The kids really got into it. Our math department and science department have been exploring the use of them, too. Seems pretty good, and really increases student engagement!

    Liked by 1 person

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