Thursday, 8 August 2013

Counting and Catching with Captain Ball

Coaching a sport has forced me to learn a lot in one of my weaker areas. Our maths faculty is actually quite sporty, but I fit a more standard stereotype!

So learning to coach has been interesting. Just like all areas of my teaching, I like to make it all about games. I've learned to adapt a lot of games to the skills I need my kids to practise.

Recently I tried bringing one of my sports activities into my Numeracy Roll Call.
 The game is Captain ball and if you don't know it, it goes like this:
  • Two or more teams line up. The first player from each team stands facing the rest of the line with a bit of a gap
  • The leading player has a ball (or bean bag, or whatever you have that you can throw and catch)
  • They throw to the first person in the line, who catches and throws it back then sits down
  • The leading player throws to the next and so on until the last player in the line catches the ball
  • The last player runs up to the leading position, the previous leader joins the line at the front and all players stand back up
  • When all players have completed their time as the leader, the whole team sits down to show they are finished
  • First team to finish wins
The Numeracy variation is pretty simple, you just call out numbers in a sequence as you catch. For example, counting by twos, fives or tens would be a good place to start.

Good for a learning activity with kids who are restless and need to move around. I think we all have plenty of those!

What other numeracy or mathematics skills could we adapt captain ball to?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

"Make n" Grids - a numeracy game

Another numeracy game for my roll call group. Right now we are targeting the skill of knowing number combinations for numbers up to 20.

We played a game called "Make 10" from the NSW DET's "Developing Efficient Numeracy Strategies" (DENS) stage 2 booklet.

The grids for that game have numbers from 1-10, and you roll a 0-9 die. Players take turns to roll the die and colour in a square on the grid. Players use different coloured pens and the first to get 4-in-a-row wins. When they roll, rather than colouring the number they rolled, they colour the number needed to make ten from their number. For example, if you roll a 6, you colour in a 4, because 6 + 4 = 10.

These grids extend the game to make use of 8, 12, and 20-sided dice, and 10-sided dice with tens, hundreds, and thousands on their faces.

We played some of these variations today, and they went well. The students can play quite independently, and it's easy to vary the difficulty between different groups by which grid and die you give them.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Telling Equation Stories with Comics

Algebra can get pretty abstract, but I find most kids can get their teeth into a good equation. "What number, if I add 8 to it, gives me 12?" No worries.

When we get to "word problems", when things could get interesting, they tend to get a bit dry instead. Kids have great imaginations, but instead of drawing on that amazing resource, we feed them boring textbook exercises or worksheets. Let's have some fun instead.

Last year with my lovely year 7s, we turned our imaginations to making movies about equations. With year 9 this year, we turned to comics.

Some free online comic generators to use for your lesson:

Marvel Kids - limited characters and a set of props that don't seem to fit your standard superhero story, but a great set of layouts and you can add pages as you go, so you don't need to know an exact plan when you start.

Make Beliefs - a nice simple one, with some cute animal characters and mutliple language options.

Comic Master - Loads of options for layout, backgrounds and characters.

How to use the comic generators in your equations lesson:

  • Brainstorm and work through examples together. Put an equation on the board and talk about what situation it could represent.
  • Get students to have a plan before they start, but not too strict a plan. Working with the comic generators will give students more ideas and they need to be ready to go where the creativity takes them, but they do need to have some ideas so they have direction.
  • Leave more time than you expect. I always forget this one!
  • Demonstrate how to start with whichever technology you choose to use. I showed the class how to get started on a few sites. It was putting random things into the Marvel Kids one that inspired my story about the Hulk smashing lamps.

I may have had too much fun with this one!

What mathematics topics do you think lend themselves to creating comics?

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Numeracy Display on the Door

This term my school's Numeracy Team set up a little competition for a Numeracy Display. This is the second one actually. At the end of last year each faculty had to put up a display about Numeracy in our subject area.

This time the challenge was to pick a classroom door and decorate it with numerical facts or information relating to our subject area and the room number.

Here's my door, courtesy of my year 9 class:

 The secondary idea here is that we'll work towards having displays like this on all the classroom doors, not only promoting numeracy, but making it easy for new students to find their rooms!

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Yes/No Game with Numbers

A simple premise, and very adaptable. Plus it gives us a nice opportunity to get up and get moving!

Here's how it goes:
  • Label one area (e.g. one side of the classroom) with "Yes" and another area with "No"
  • Give each student a number.
  • Ask yes/no questions about the numbers.
  • Students have to go to the correct area, holding their number where you can see it to check.

For example, today I played this with my Peer Numeracy roll call (which was extra good because it was a small group and the year 10 mentors helped check and helped the students who struggled). First I did numbers in the hundreds, then in the thousands.

Some questions:
  • Are you even?
  • Are you more than 50?
  • Are you more than 400?
  • Look at your tens digit. Is your tens digit more than 3?
  • Look at your hundreds digit. Is your hundreds digit odd?
  • Add up your digits. This is your digit sum. Is your digit sum even?

And so on. At the end of each set of questions, I got them to line up in ascending order and collected the numbers and gave out the new numbers.

I've also played as revision with year 7 classes, looking at number properties and special numbers, using questions like:
  • Are you odd?
  • Are you prime?
  • Are you a multiple of 3?
  • Is 4 a factor of you?
  • Are you palindromic?
  • Are you a square number?
  • Are you a triangular number?
  • Are you in the Fibonacci sequence?
  • If you add 3 to yourself, are you a multiple of 5?

Some other ideas:
  • Use decimal numbers and ask questions about the digits in certain places, to reinforce place value
  • Use fractions and ask questions about the numerator and denominator (to reinforce those terms)
  • Use algebraic terms and ask about "are you a like term to ...?" or "is .... a factor of you?"
  • Give students shapes and ask questions about their properties

This also makes me think about getting students into groups for group work. Some ideas:
  • Give students algebraic terms and get them to form groups in their like terms
  • Give students numbers and get them to form groups of multiples
  • Give students shapes and get them to find the same type of shape

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Numbers of the Ancient World

Last year my year 7 class began by exploring Numbers in Our World, including making fake papyrus and painting Egyptian numerals on them.

I loved it so much, we did it again this year. Maths in the art room is so much fun!

This time I let them choose which number system to paint numerals from.

I also encouraged them to paint a calculation rather than just a number, which some of them did.

One painted her birth date and time.

Ever wondered what it would look like if the Ancient Egyptians did integration? Now you know.

Someone get this kid some extension work!

Friday, 1 March 2013

Circle Geometry Puzzle

Just a little bit of extra fun in Circle Geometry for my Extension 1 students.

I'd like to try more of this sort of thing, but it was hard work! Maybe the students should make their own as a homework assignment.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Multiples Pig

When I was at high school, we played a lot of card games. A lot. All the time.

Pig was one I had forgotten about, until I was reintroduced to it by some students as Spoons. A good description of the game can be found here.

In Pig the aim is to get four of a kind. In Multiples Pig, the aim is to get 4 numbers that are all multiples of the same number (not including one, and I usually disallow twos as well).

All you need are some number cards. Here are some that go from 3 to 50 that work quite well:

My basic summary of the rules:
  • Players sit in a circle
  • Deal 4 cards to each player
  • The rest of the deck is to the right of one player
  • That player picks up from the deck then discards to their left
  •  The next player picks up from those discards and discards to their left and so on. So each player picks up from their right, discards to their left.
  • There are no 'turns', play continues as quickly as the players can play
  • The first player to create a hand of 4 multiples puts their hand on their nose
  • Anyone who notices this can also put their hand on their nose
  • The last player to put their hand on their nose 'loses' (loses a life, gets a letter of the word pig, etc.)
  • Shuffle, deal and play again!

The best part of pig is the subtle silent waiting for the last person to notice!

Monday, 25 February 2013

Rabid Dogs

Teaching a difficult class is like looking after a rapid murderous dog.

You cannot stop it being rabid and murderous, but you can be sensible about how you look after it.

If you don't have a plan to keep it contained or occupied, things will go badly. If you forget your past experiences and fool yourself into thinking it can control itself and rise above its situation, things will go badly.

Things will occasionally go badly. And you start to feel that its somehow your fault the dog is rapid and murderous.

It isn't your fault.  But you've got to stop thinking you can fix the dog, and accept that all you can do is contain it, and work on that.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

"I have...Who has?" for Simplifying Surds

My new addiction is "I have... Who has...?" cards. I'd seen the idea around a bit, also called "Follow me" or something like that, but never tried any.

Then I found a free example for telling the time from superteacherworksheets and used it with my year 10s.

The basic idea is that the cards make up a chain of matching items. They can be question-and-answer style or just different ways of representing the idea. The time cards have a clock face for "I have..." and a written time for "Who has...?"

We played just by calling out. So I took a card and read my "Who has...?" question. The students all look at their clock faces and whoever has that one answers "I have..." and follows by reading their question. When we got back to me, the game was done.

Of course, you have to have everyone paying attention! This was the hardest part for the class.

Other ways to play, I believe, include using it as a way to get everyone into a circle or a line in a random order, and you could also get the students just to put the cards into order as a kind of matching activity.

Today I tried my own little revision one with year 11 Mathematics. Yesterday we simplified surds, so today we checked our knowledge with these cards:

This was a bit of fun, quick revision and a good check of who still needed help with the work. Also they are very simple to make if you don't need images! So I plan to do lots of algebra ones.

I also suggested to my resident PDHPE teacher that it would be a hilarious game for revising knowledge of STDs. Not sure if he'll take me up on that one.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Numeracy Game: "50 and out"

My second numeracy game of the year for the Peer Numeracy roll call group was based on an idea I found on the internet when googling around. Naturally, I can't find it again. But it was called "50 and out" or something very similar.

Basically, everyone stands in a circle (I've found that a group of 5-10 is good) and they go around the circle saying the next number in the sequence. So for the basic game, they count up in fives. There is a target number, in this case 50. The person who says 50 has to sit down, then the others start back at 5 and you continue until only one person is standing.

There's no strategy to this game, but it leads neatly on to playing variations on "21". There, each person can choose whether to say 1, 2, or 3 numbers in the sequence to try not to get out.

For my numeracy roll call we are focusing on counting on and back by 10s, so we had variations like:
  • Start at 10, go up by 10s, 100 is out
  • Start at 200, go down by 10s, 100 is out
  • Start at 37, go up by 10s, 157 is out
  • Start at 182, go down by 10s, 62 is out
We've played for a week now and covered heaps of variations of counting by 10s off the decade, and they've also tried counting by 2s and by 5s.

With another Maths class, we used it more for times tables, up to the 12s. This was also a great opportunity to satisfy their desire to go outside on a nice day! We made two circles on the netball courts and they happily played for about half a lesson. They had a go at the variation with strategy, which I'll try with the roll call group tomorrow!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Numeracy Game for Counting by Tens and Ones

This is a simple group game for practising counting on and back by tens and ones. I used our recently-purchased pocket cubes to create dice for the game.

Players sit in a circle and takes turns to roll the dice and count as instructed. The worded die tells you whether to count on or back, and by ones or tens. The number die tells you how many numbers you need to count. Play starts at 100.

Player 1 rolls "count on by tens" and "3", so they count "110, 120, 130".
Player 2 counts from 130. They roll "count back by ones" and "4", so they count "129, 128, 127, 126".

If you get to or below zero, restart at 100.

I have a roll call class called "Peer Numeracy", which involves a group of year 8 students who need help with numeracy working with year 10 students as mentors/leaders/tutors. We tried this game today in our first session for the year. They played in groups of 3 or 4 and the student leaders helped them mostly by remembering what number they were at, and providing guidance where it was needed to keep track of their counting.

The inserts could be varied to increase or decrease the difficulty for students as they develop their skills. For example:
  • starting at 1000 and including counting on or back by hundreds
  • include counting by twos or fives
  • use for higher-level kids studying decimals by counting on or back by ones, tenths and hundredths
Does anyone else use these pocket cubes? What have you done with them?