It's Not Just Game Play!

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Students will be able to work together to play math games and communicate their mathematical understandings.

Big Idea

Partner work during math sessions occurs almost daily. Developing classroom norms and routines, including appropriate behavior in math games, is a critical component for success.

Creating Norms and Routines

25 minutes

I choose to focus on Partner Play Norms in the lesson.  It is important that I set the expectations and routines for math games from the start. I use math games extensively for practice, and the expectation includes self monitoring not only for behavior, but also for thinking and strategies, and a sharing out discussion.  It is too soon to introduce a game with these full expectations.  Since I want students actually practicing the partner norms, I choose a game that is easy for everyone to play without a lot of cognitive load.

We are going to play a card game in a few minutes called Addition Top-It.  However, before we play any game, it is important to understand the rules of the game and how we need to be working with each other.  Remember, in math class, we are always working together to make sure we all learn and understand more.  Let's make a chart called Partner Play Norms.  This chart will always help us remember what it will look and sound like when we play games.

At this point, take your kids through a brainstorming session to create this chart.  My chart is an example.  Your class will have greater ownership if you develop your norms together. 

Partner Work

20 minutes

As students begin to play, I am sure to compliment those that are quickly, but safely gathering their materials for the game and finding a good "learning spot" to work in.  I will then begin to move around the room and sit for a bit with each partnership, listening to their math talk and observing how they play and communicate with each other.  

This is the time to make the game play count.  Make comments on what you see going well and gently suggest and model areas to improve on.  The goal to to nurture students so that all are able to explain their thinking to others and support each other in their learning. Sometimes we even get lucky and students start realizing how to accurately ask for help!  

Critiquing and Refining

15 minutes

During this section, I have students play an easy game, in order to focus on the partnership norms we have set.  I try to video tape each group as they play for just a minute.  After I have gotten around to each group, I call everyone to the community area in order to watch the videos.  If you are able to hook up your device to a computer or projector, this is a powerful teaching technique. 

As we watch all of the videos, we stop and discuss what we see going well and what needs improvement.  After we critique, I send the students back to practice their partnership skills and basic fact practice and I video again.  

I then bring them back and watch to see if we improved.  We also talk about how working with partners can help us become better with our own skills.  

This is a video from the first round, in which the students determined there was too much noise in the room and the two boys needed to slow down and place the cards on the floor so each could work on the problems together. 


This video was taken during the second round and shows students working more carefully together and helping each other with a strategy.