Beat the Back to School Blues…Play a Math Game!

Coming back from winter break can be hard. Everyone is sleepy, unfocused, and daydreaming of the holiday gifts that await them at home after school. And that’s just the teachers!

But seriously, getting back into the groove of school is hard for everyone, and can be especially hard for students with disabilities who thrive on clarity of expectations and routine. Creating the perfect situation for students and teachers to transition from a holiday break can be a challenge. So this year, we played games!

When visitors come into my room and see “games” on the agenda they assume that means “free time.” That, however, is not the case. As Van De Walle, Karp and Bay-Williams write, “A game or other repeatable activity may not seem to incorporate a problem but it can nonetheless be a problem-based task. The determining factor is whether the [game] causes students to be reflective about new or developing mathematical relationships. Remember that it is reflective thought that causes growth and therefore learning” (63).


Tips from Marilyn Burns (Source)

Marilyn Burns describes why games have been a staple of her teaching repertoire, “Games can motivate students, capture their interest, and are a great way to get in that paper-and-pencil practice.”  Further, in their book, Routines for Reasoning, Kelemanik, Lucenta, and Crieghton relate that learning experiences for students with disabilities must be: authentic, meaningful contexts, multisensory, language rich, and full of opportunities for multiple practice. Games provide all of these features. They are by definition, competitive. Competition is, itself, a meaningful, authentic context. Most games are inherently multi-sensory. While playing games students must communicate with each other, thus creating language rich environments. And finally, most good math games make students do as many (or more) problems as they would on a paper-and-pencil worksheet.

Since my students have a wide range of academic abilities, it is necessary that we have access to a wide range of math games. Here are the math games we play, and please let us know which ones you love so we can play them too!

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Humans vs. Zombies! (or How We Learned About the Coordinate Plane)

This week began our study of the coordinate plane.  I used the first lesson of Transition to Algebra’s unit 6 as a pre-assessment.  It proved that I needed to take a couple steps back and address many of the basic concepts relating to the coordinate plane (axes, integers, ordered pairs, quadrants, etc…) in a more direct way.  Our class goals are pulled from the Common Core State Standards Initiative:

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First, I used this game as an anchor for plotting ordered pairs, then the students did some individual practice on worksheets.  Today we played another game…

Humans vs. Zombies!

My very crafty assistant teacher, Ms. Avellino, took a game from a website and turned it into this… Continue reading

We Made a Math Game!

Well, to be more precise we made a puzzle-y, game-y type thing.

Let me explain.

If you follow me on twitter, then you saw this little bit of nerdiness…

I bought this dice bonanza bucket at Target during Christmas break.  I was very motivated to put the new dice to work for my students!

As I wrote about previously, one of my classes is studying algebra.  The contents of the dice bonanza varied between number dice, dot dice, color dice, and others it reminded me of Transition to Algebra like this:

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So my assistant teacher and I put the dice to work in this puzzle game we called Dice ID.  Here is the instruction booklet and here is the game board.

And here is how it went in our class last Friday…

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