August 17, 2012

My Favorite Friday: Review Games

Before every test students work as a class to come up with a study guide.  They practice going through their notes and textbook, and I write down whatever they come up with.  By the end everyone has a two column sheet with vocab or big ideas on the left and definitions or details on the right.  Fold in half for an instant self quizzing machine!  (Some kids prefer flashcards, works the same.)  Then, we practice everything they decided they will need to know for the test via a review game.  Practicing takes different forms each unit and honestly has a lot more to do with my mood than anything else, although I'm sure there are some units that are better suited to certain games.  As the year went on and I got organized I would offer multiple options at stations (BINGO and Basketball would be too distracting but everything else works).

No Prep Required:


Students make up problems and solve them.  Since my BINGO boards are small, numbers work much better than words (explanations are impossible).  We can abbreviate words in vocab heavy units though.  As students submit the problems I write the answers on the board.  When there are at least 25 different answers on the board I tell everyone to stop making up problems and start filling them RANDOMLY into their card (we can't have everyone getting BINGO on the same turn!).  I laminated the blank cards and use dry erase markers for a reusable set.  When everyone is ready, I write up problems one at a time and students put a single line through the answers they get.  I give hints but not full solutions.  Students may work together, but more often they are competing.  To win a student must read back the 5 answers they got in a row (so keep a neat pile of the questions/answers you have already used to check).  The winner gets to choose an item from the prize basket!  (A basket filled with random items I found for less than $1.  The goodie bag section of Target, the dollar store or a party store is great for little puzzles and glow sticks are also popular.)

Minimal Prep Required:

Basketball (originally from Kate)

My take is to put 3 problems on a half sheet, then have 6 different half sheet options.  Students solve all three problems, then check with me.  If all three are perfect they get to crumple up the paper and shoot for the recycling bin from the close line, an advantage since making the shot awards them a bonus point.  If there is even one small mistake they get sent away to figure out what's wrong and fix it.  Once they've fixed it they check with me again, and if it is now perfect they must shoot from the far line.  I make a big grid and check off each half sheet they complete, as well as how many shots they made.  The grid is key if you want to have any idea what work they did, since it's all in the recycling bin!  It also allows me to declare a winner, who gets to choose an item from the prize basket.  The students love this game, and I love that there is a reward for checking their work before handing it in.  I don't love the stampede around me.  Every time we play I get totally surrounded at some point and have to tell everyone to back up and form a line.  If you have ideas how to keep the momentum and enthusiasm going without me getting trampled I would love to hear them.

Check sum (stolen from someone but I forget who, comment if it's you!)

Practice problems are grouped in categories (meaningful or completely random) on a worksheet.  When all the problems in one section are complete, students add up all the answers.  The 'check sum' is posted in the front of the room- if their sum matches they got it right!  (Or at least the probability is really high, I try to have some large numbers and/or decimals mixed in so it's unlikely they found another set of numbers that have the same sum.)  If not, they have to check their work for every problem in the section.  I like this one because it puts the responsibility of checking the work and finding the mistake on them.  Maybe I could merge this with basketball... ideas formulating!

Sequence (idea from the "I have 7, who has 5 more?" deck we used in my self contained class)

There's a pile of problems with answers on the back, except the answer on the back isn't the answer to that problem!  Students pick a random problem to start with.  The solution to that problem is on the back of some other card (if you can't find the answer you got it's time to check your work).  Now solve the next problem in the sequence.  Done properly the problems should form a single closed loop.  Students liked these because I had them do out the work on the white board.  I like it because it's self-checking.

Smart Board Toss: 

When I first got a Smart Board I searched the galleries looking for good ways to use it.  I found several examples of this type of game: lots of circles, if you throw something at the board it will select a circle, that circle links to a problem.  Thing is, it doesn't actually work!  We tried several different types of balls with no result.  However, students can toss something (I use a stuffed cloth ball that is crazy light- it seemed safest) and then just tap the circle.  I put a problem on each destination screen, require the student who threw the ball to also be the scribe and leave the answer hidden under a rectangle that they can move out of the way when they are done.  If they get the answer wrong they have to re-do the problem correctly.  Final step: ERASE their work and re-cover the answer.  Otherwise it's a mess when the next group takes their turn.

Substantial Prep Required (the first year):

Taboo (I shared some of my cards last year) 

We play Taboo just like the Hasbro game, except with cards that I made up.  Students work in small groups to get their teammates to guess math vocab words, without using the most common descriptors.  It gets students beyond a 'memorize the definition' mode to really being able to talk fluently about math.  Plus, it's way fun!  I plan to laminate the cards as I go through each chapter this year, I wasn't sure how long it would stay fun but students were still asking to play when we reviewed for the final exam, so it seems worth it to make the cards last.


  1. I also use the SMART board toss and it will work if you get a heavy bean bag. I bought several balls and none of them worked but I asked the elementary gym teacher and he gave me a bean bag which worked perfectly. I love all the games you listed, so helpful!

  2. Awesome ideas! I can't wait to share them with our math department.

  3. These are great! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks to all of you! Spread them far and wide, we could all use some extra fun in our classrooms.

    @misscalcul8 I'm glad that there is *something* that works for that game, but giving my kids heavy bean bags would make me nervous. I'm sure they could live up to the challenge of not hurting each other, but...

  5. Ooh, I made a Taboo game too because I love the original Hasbro version! But I only made one set for algebra as it did take me some time to make. We play Password too, and this is fun and fast-paced. I think we could use another #matheme category of math games, Tina :)

  6. koosh balls work great on the smart board!

  7. For smartboard toss how do you make a presentation with easily followable links? Powerpoint? Or is there a premade one?

  8. There's a premade notebook file:

  9. Thanks for the Koosh ball template. I can't wait.