Let's Play Showdown! Writing and Solving Equations

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SWBAT solve equations with rational numbers by playing a game of showdown.

Big Idea

We play a game and push for the increase of student-to-teacher-talk ratio throughout class

Do Now

15 minutes

Students enter silently according to the Daily Entrance Routine. As we prepare for our Unit test tomorrow, I make sure to plan for students to talk, explain, and engage in a dialogue as a class about the answers to the problems they’ll encounter today. I aim to push them to use MP3 as a way to fully comprehend the algebraic concepts we continue to explore. The goal is to raise the student to teacher-talk ratio so that students are doing more of the explanation and justification for correct answers.


All students will be given 5 – 6 minutes to work independently on the do now. Then we will take the rest of time to explain answers. Each problem lists the major understandings needed from one or several different students along with some questions I ask to push this thinking:


Problem #1 – Solve Equations px + q = y

  • What is your first step?
  • What do you divide by?
  • Which number goes “in the house”? (for students struggling with basic skill)
  • What does q represent?


Problem #2 – MP1: Persevere to solve

  • How can we check each answer choice?
  • How can substitution help us to check each answer choice?
  • What is being distributed in each answer choice?
  • How does the sign of the number in each answer choice affect our answer after we distribute and combine like terms?
  • What can we think about when combining like terms? (integer chips, red for positives blue for negatives, hot/cold; this idea is drawn from the integers unit at the beginning of the year).


Problem #3 – Geometry applications

  • What picture can you draw to depict the situation?
  • How can we illustrate the extension of the length?
    • It doesn’t say that Ms. Chavira extended all lengths, only a length. Does that change the type of picture we draw?
    • What geometric formula measuring the number of square units inside any shape will we need?
    • What property will need to be used to ensure we multiply the entire quantity of the new length by the width of the pen?
      • Which should I use: Area = 5 (5 + y) or Area = 5 * 5 + y? does it matter?
      • What does y represent? What do you find when you solve for the unknown in this equation? 

This is the essential work I am asking students to complete for each problem on the SmartBoard or chalkboard. They are responsible for explaining the work or selecting someone they trust to explain it for them.

Prep for Showdown

5 minutes

Once we are done reviewing each problem, I assign students into groups of 3 or 4. I created these groups the day before based on the skills students have been able to master in class or their ability to communicate in class about the material. Groups are heterogeneous in ability and knowledge. I distribute materials to each group once tables have been moved to form pods of 4. These materials include:

  • A deck of question cards, printed on cardstock, a different color for each group. (Cards should be  large enough for 4 students to read at once)
  • A basket with scrap paper


During this time students must elect a Showdown Captain to begin the round.  Explain to students that there will be a new showdown captain for each round. Explain how Showdown is played:

  • The Showdown Captain for each round is responsible for making sure all students in the group have a sheet of scrap paper in front of them before the round begins.
  • Showdown Captain will flip the first card in the deck over when I indicate it is time to begin.
  • All students must work independently for 3 minutes to read and solve the question. If finished before time is up, they need to turn their solution face down.
  • When I yell “Showdown!”, all students reveal their responses at once in each group.
  • If everyone has the correct answer they will get 5 team points. If not, the team will need to coach each other to the correct response within 1 minutes and earn 1 point if correct.
  • The student to the left of the previous Showdown Captain will become Captain for the next round.

The Game - Showdown

25 minutes

What I’m doing: During the independent work periods I am walking around to ensure students are trying something on their papers. I give hints about concepts to consider, or steps to take when solving a problem (for example, “use a verbal model to translate”, “check your division again”). As a general rule in class, I remind students that without work they will fail to get their team points. I also hold a clipboard with a roster of all student names, keeping track of group points using the name of the first Showdown Captain to distinguish each group. I am also keeping a timer close by to let students know when it is time to begin and end rounds and when it is independent work time vs. coaching time.

What students are doing: Students are NOT to re-shuffle their cards when they receive them. They must remain in the same order given to them. To ensure the right order of questioning, I write numbers on the back of each card.  During independent work times, students need to be working silently and independently. Points may be deducted for not following these directions. During the coaching periods, all students must show engagement in the conversations. Points may be deducted or students may be removed from groups to work on the graded assignment independently. 


10 minutes

In the last few minutes of class we spend time rearranging the room to its original configuration. Students are given the “Task + HW” which is an assignment that includes all 6 problems visited during the game along with room to show work on lined paper. This assignment will be used as a classwork grade. Students are to work independently on this assignment or raise their hands to ask specific questions they still have about any question. This allows time for students to begin their homework or get a few extra minutes of my attention to help them grasp difficult concepts.