Saturday, March 29, 2014

Math Madness: Spark Student Motivation

   March and April are tough months for teachers because of the looming {dreaded} standardized tests that are in the near future. Teachers start worrying about how the kids will do, and the kids stress about taking tests. Not fun for either party! Testing is not a party nor is preparing for testing. 

    This year has been a little more stressful because our district extended our school days, due to all the lost snow days,  by 30 minutes daily. Our school decided those extra 30 minutes would be for test preparation, with the primary focus on reading and math. I know some teachers secretly wanted an extra 30 minutes of recess, and I wanted 30 minutes to catch up in science and social studies. Well, what's a teacher to do?
   Extra test preparation time has its benefits, and if you plan for it well you can make the best of the situation. Catch up in science by reading or writing about a science concept. Read a fantastic article highlighting a topic you have not taught in social studies yet. Kill two birds by reading the social studies passage with reading skills in mind, then ask them to look back for evidence on a social studies concept. Or better yet, make the review in to a game so the kids forget that you are working. With this approach to the longer day, it has become a little more manageable and the time flies. 
   Playing games and making review fun is always a motivation for students. Not only have I used this approach in the last part of my day, I am capitalizing on this approach to motivate the kids during math class.
   To inspire and motivate my students to work harder, they are competing in a Math Madness competition. I am using the awesome Basketball Madness packet from Diane at Fifth in the Middle

   Each page is differentiated with three different levels of problems. Students can earn 1 point, 2 points, or 3 points depending on the problems they complete correctly. There are a total of 6 sheets that are all based on math skills including operations and algebraic thinking, number and operations in base ten, fractions, and measurement. 
  The sheets follow the basketball theme so they are most definitely a winner in the minds of my athletes. 

   The amount of problems is not overwhelming either so there are very few complaints about it being too much. I have granted mine a choice of how many they complete, which also cuts back on some of the whining. Instead what you hear in my room when they are working on their sheets is pencils racing across the page and the wheels spinning in their heads. Because they are working, my smile glows and I do a little happy dance! 
  No, I have not sprinkled some magic dust nor threatened them, instead I motivated them with choice, a prize, and competition. And, it is working! {Swoosh!}
  I knew I wanted to display the results, but was uncertain of how. If I went with a basketball tourney bracket, like the March Madness bracket, I would have had kids out in the first round, then their effort would have dwindled. Instead, I made a chart with each round, their names to the side, and I post the points earned daily. From that group the top score(ers) earn a red star, then from that I pick a random winner to earn a yellow star. The red star indicates that they won that round, and the yellow that they earned at least the minimum and are the random winner.

  To become eligible for the yellow star they have to earn at least 6 points. Each day I have my son pull a paper from the eligible papers. 
  I do not give prizes out very often, so it is a big deal when I offer one. They can earn coupons that are good for 5 bonus points on a math assignment, get an answer to a test question for free, or pick out a snack. 
  I have allowed them to make a choice on each page as to which problems they complete. They know that points are important so many are trying to complete the whole page. Some start with the 3 point problems and work their way down. Some quickly solve the 1 pointers and work their way up. I set a time limit of 13 minutes. 
  The math sheets have become my morning warm up activity. They have been the perfect motivator for my kids to get started right away. They do not want to waste their time; time equals opportunity to earn points. They are striving to complete the whole page instead of avoiding the work. 
  The sheets are also eye opening for me. I am able to assess which skills we {desperately} need to review. You may not be able to see all the details, but round 2 resulted in low scores. The simple skills of rounding, expanded form, and written form are weak. We did those at the beginning of the year, and many seem to have forgotten what to do. Round 3 was multiplication. With the time limit, it was harder for them to complete the whole page, but many were also making careless errors that we can remedy through a discussion and daily review. Luckily we are about to dive in to volume and I always reteach multiplication with decimals during that unit, now I know that I will really have to emphasize that skill. 
  The packet includes an answer key making it quick to check, a definite bonus for me. My students check that board every morning. I wait to post until they leave so they are not distracted during the rest of the day. One boy even asked me if I had scored his paper, minutes after finishing, I guess he was really motivated. 
 To celebrate the perfect scores I am posting those sheets next to the results. 

  At the end of the madness, I am going to have the students review finding the mean of a data set, and add their mean score to the chart. They will then compete in a paper basketball shooting contest. They will receive 1 sheet of paper that equals their mean score, they can then shoot it in the {trash} basket. 
  This packet is truly a winner! My students are working hard - score! They are striving to do better - three-point score! Having fun while reviewing is always a score! Add in the bonus point of being able to quickly pick out the penalties in their work. 
  I may have lost the tourney bracket I selected this season, but I am winning in my math class with this Math Madness! 
  If you are looking for a way to motivate your math students, check out this packet at Fifth in the Middle. It is on sale this weekend (3/29-3/30/2014). If you are looking for other ways to motivate your students, check out the links at Head Over Heels for Teaching

Hope you have a fantastic Saturday! 

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I absolutely love how you took this and ran with it! Thank you for allowing me to share this awesomeness with others :)


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