The Numbers Game: Playing by the Rules

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SWBAT use index cards to build numerical expressions to solve word problems and to explore their knowledge of the properties of operations with whole numbers, fractions, and decimals.

Big Idea

Students engage in group activities to write numerical expressions and share their work.

Do Now

15 minutes

My expectation is that students enter class silently after greeting me at the door with a smile or neutral face, saying "good morning" or "good afternoon." This is a Daily Entrance Routine I use to enforce our school's Character Strength of optimism, which is one I use often in our lessons.

Teacher's Note: If a student does not meet these expectations I ask them to wait by the door. After I greet all of the students, I will go back to the student at the door and calmly ask, "Are you ok?" The message the student hopefully gets is: it's not ok to refuse to follow the rules, but my teacher cares about me. I let them know that I care about their success in my class and want to see them start the year on a positive note. The aim of my conversation is to get the student to voluntarily come to class and voluntarily follow the rules of this class without promising the student success, but showing through my actions that I value his/her thoughts and situation.

Once they enter the class today, students make a semi-circle around the room to receive their seat assignments. I ask students to walk over to their seat as soon as I point to it and say their name. At their desk, students will have a Do Now and a binder. Inside the binder students have dividers and a plastic protector that includes class expectations. Students are instructed to begin their Do Now as soon as they take a seat:

Students are given 5-6 minutes to write an answer to the Do Now.

While students work on their Do Now independently I pass out the rest of the materials. The routine for the distribution of materials today involves students on the end of the rows, so they get all the materials to be handed out and are asked to wait until I instruct them to pass them to the left. The materials include:

  1. 3 vocabulary cards/student (numerical expression, commutative property, and associative property)
  2. 1 Achievement Card/student
  3. Parent Letter to get signed for HW
  4. Student HW assignment

After 5-6 minutes I advise students at the 30- and 20-second marks that they will need to put their eyes on me and then I begin a countdown from 5. At 0 I look to make sure I have all eyes, reminding students to put pencils down and track me without calling anyone out by name. I'll use focus prompts like:

  • I'm missing 2 pairs of eyes
  • I'm waiting for 1 KIPPster to put their writing utensil down

Students on the ends of the rows are asked to pass the HW assignment and parent letter to their left. All students are asked to write down their homework in their agendas. Students are then asked to pass the Achievement Cards to the left followed by the vocabulary cards, one at a time. 


Intro to Teacher and Game

15 minutes

After students have a chance to write, I will introduce myself as a teacher who loves gaming, video games particularly, and as a math teacher committing herself to include as many games as possible in math class. I draw an analogy between games and math and the fact that they both involve rules. If we don't understand the rules of a game, it makes it difficult to play it. If we don't understand the rules of math, it can be difficult to comprehend it. Students are then told that they will have 3-4 minutes to share what they wrote for the Do Now in preparation for a game of Last One Standing.

Many of my students know the Last One Standing game because they often play it in 5th grade with their multiplication facts. Students are instructed to share their answers with their neighbors and be prepared to summarize what their neighbor said in 10 words or less. If they cannot do this in 5 seconds or less, they will need to sit. The last person standing gets a school supplies prize. Today, I will check for understanding of the game directions by asking students, "Could you use 10 words to summarize what your neighbor said? could you use 5 words? could you use 1?"

After students have that 3-4 minutes to share I have everyone stand behind their desk once I count down to zero from 10. This is one way that I build classroom culture with respect to following direction. Most students will anticipate the zero and stand at 1 or 2. When this happens I have everyone sit back down again and I re-emphasize the idea that like gaming, math has rules that need to be followed and thus directions are important in this class. I explain that in my commitment to include as many games as possible I must also include a structure of routines and they must follow through with those routines if we're going to make this work. All of this is stated with a warm tone and a smile. Then, we try it again. This time, I use fractions as I am counting down... 10, 9 ,8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0.5, 0.4, ZERO! :)

Game: Last One Standing

10 minutes

I start with a student in the middle of the room and snake my way around while pointing to students so that they know they are next to say their 10 (or fewer) words. I give every student positive feedback about what they have said by saying things like:

  • Good, I like that one
  • Oh, to count money, I like money!
  • For financial reasons! Great vocab!

After this round of students sharing their answers, most students remain standing. I let students know that we are now moving into Last One Standing with math facts. I tell them that I will start with multiplication facts and continue with division, addition, subtraction, exponents, fractions, and decimal facts. I use a table of sample questions to speed up the game (see Day 1 - TR - Last one standing Qs).

It is at this point that some students may decide to test the waters by calling out answers repeatedly or saying things like "oh come on! that one's easy!". Again, this is a perfect opportunity to build culture around a positive and supportive classroom where students feel safe to make mistakes and participate in learning. I have at the ready a Facts Worksheet in case the game needs to be shut down should these things happen repeatedly.


Intro to System of Rewards + Task

15 minutes

Students work in groups of 4 or 5 on an activity that will ask them to construct numerical expressions from given word problems on index cards. Students earn Achievements after correctly solving each problem. Each student will carry their own card and I will store them in the classroom. There will not be enough time to complete this activity, so I talk to students about Achievement Cards for about 5 minutes and then tell them that they will work in groups for the remainder of the time so that they can become familiar with the activity, which will be continued the next day.

Before concluding today's lesson, I make an analogy between Achievement Cards and "achievements" one earns while playing Xbox video games (See Wikipedia for an explanation). I ask students to tell me what sorts of things they've done recently in a video game to earn achievements. Many of their examples will include the completion of some task within the video game they refer to. I say this is similar to how they will earn achievements in my class. On this particular numerical expressions task, students will earn Achievement points for correctly solving each problem. Problems copied on yellow paper are worth 2 points, on pink work 3 points and on purple worth 4 Achievement points. Achievements can be cashed in for prizes.

I list some possible prizes I've thought about and welcome students' suggestions at lunch: 

  • Popeyes/Pizza Lunch with 4 friends
  • See an embarrassing picture of awkward Ms. Chavira when she was in 7th grade
  • Upstairs for Lunch and Board Games
  • Sports Equipment
  • Free HW Nights
  • School Supplies
  • Movie Monday + popcorn
  • +5(%) on a quiz/test
  • Teach me how to Dougie... or any other dance move and we'll record and share with class
  • Drop lowest test score

Students work in groups of 4 until the end of class. Then, we pack up by following the directions:

  1. Anyone who is not at their original seat, please return
  2. Pack everything up, except for your index cards. Carry those in one hand.
  3. When your row is called, go to the back table and pick up an index card box.
  4. Line up in front of the blue wall
  5. When all students are silent, they will line up in the hallway for their next class.