Math Games in the Classroom

Math Games

This post relates to #MTBoS assignment four.  For this mission I decided to listen to one of the Global Math Department‘s webinars.  I came across GMD about a year ago and look back occasionally at the webinars that I miss.  While reviewing I found the math games webinar back in January of last year, so that’s the one I picked for this mission.  Plus, I’ve always enjoyed using math games (1,2,3) to review and believe that I can always improve in this area of my practice.

Math games have always been a part of my own teaching practice, but I want to learn how to use them more effectively.  I’m fortunate to have a curriculum that highlights the use of math games in/out of the classroom.  I use math games with my classes approximately once per week and primarily use them during math stations. Most of the math games that I use deal with dice, cards, and/or some type of online component.  For me, the reason for using the games goes back to the concept of learning and engagement.  I believe engagement can be heightened with the appropriate use of a math game.  Math games also allow opportunities to develop skills related to critical thinking and problem solving.  Also, guided math has played a role in how I use math games in the classroom.  With a push for guided math at the elementary level, students that are not immediately with an instructor need to be able to engaged in mathematical thinking, self-govern themselves, and use their time wisely.  Math games at a particular math station provide an opportunity to do just that.

Understanding what makes a good math game is important.  Ensuring that the students are engaged is key.  Students that drift their attention in and out of the game can cause issues; especially if the teacher isn’t directly at that particular math station.  As I watched the webinar, I began to see affirmation and areas where I need to start thinking more critically about how math games are used.

A few takeaways/questions from this webinar include:

  • Always start with the objective
  • Does the math actually interrupt the game/fun?
  • Is the math action the same as the game action?
  • Time limits can encourage math anxiety
  • Games can be used to introduce concepts, not just for review
  • Games can encourage math exploration
  • Inferencing, prediction, critical thinking and logic reasoning can all be part of the game
  • Rote mathematics doesn’t have to be the emphasis of game
  • Math games can reinforce gamification thinking
  • Keep in mind the game design process

How do you use math games in the classroom?

Visual Patterns

#mtbos post three
Patterns and Algebra

My third #MTBoS post is about the visual pattern resource, visualpatterns.org.  Generally, patterns (numerical and object-based) are some of the first concepts taught to introduce algebra and number characteristics.   Initially, patterns may seem simple, but they often allow opportunities to enrich and extend instruction into more challenging concepts

My third grade class has been studying patterns and rules during the past two weeks.  One of the activities that we used can be found here.   We’re using math tasks to uncover different type of numerical patterns.   I’ve had the opportunity to visit this site multiple times during the algebra unit.  One of my classes tackled the problem below last week.

Visual Patterns

The students loved that this problem was created by a sixth grade student.  I think this added to their motivation and bonus! … also had them thinking of how they could create their own problems.  The students were given whiteboards and worked with a partner to find the fourth pattern. During that time I asked questions that helped guide the students towards a solution.  With enough time, most groups were able to find a solution.  The class then had a discussion on how the solution was derived.  Then came the fun part …  the partners decided to answer “How many lego pieces are in step 43”?  Student groups then presented their answers to the class.

At some point I’d like to have my students create and submit their own patterns to visualpatterns.org.

Geometry Explorations

Compass
Geometry Explorations               #mtbos post two

My fourth grade class is now studying geometry.  Geometry at the elementary level allows opportunities for students to get out of their seats and learn while using their compass and protractor.  Last week my students dusted off their protractor and compass in preparation for the geometry unit.  Throughout the years I’ve added different geometry explorations to this unit.  Some of the activities in this post have been modified from the curriculum and others I’ve created or borrowed from some amazing teachers.  I’m going to highlight four specific geometry explorations that I find valuable.


1.

Students are given different types of polygons and asked to find interior angle measurements.   I tend to group the students and have them work collaboratively to find a solution.  Students can use any method to find a solution.  I find that some groups use a protractor, while others find the measurement of the triangle and use it to find the interior angles of other regular polygons. Near the end of the session the class creates an anchor chart that shows similarities/differences between the polygon shapes and their sum of measures.

Polygons

Polygon Angles

2.

I pass out a notecard/piece of paper to each student.  Students are asked to make an arc on each corner of the sheet.  The arcs don’t have to be the same size.  The arcs are cut out and put together to form a circle.  Essentially, students use a rectangle and turn the rectangle into a circle and both have the same interior angle measurements. Students are then asked what conclusions can be made by completing this activity.

Circle

3.

I generally use this activity before teaching about adjacent and vertical angles.  Students are asked to draw and label two intersecting lines.  This should be review, but most students haven’t been using angles in math class for about eight months.  Once the angles have been created, students measure each angle.  Students are then asked what they notice about the measures of the angles?  Do they notice any similarities?  This is a great opportunity to fill out an anchor chart indicating what angles are close in measurement.

IMG_2352

4.

After all the above activities take place I give students a quick formative assessment.  It looks like this:

Finding Angle Z

Students are asked to find and explain the reasoning for the measurement of angle Z.

Overall, these exploration activities allow opportunities for students to engage in math in unique ways.  Math manipulative and explorations often open doors that ignite interest in many students.