One of My Favorite Games: The Answer Is…

This game is part of my “simple but high leverage” collection of games that are flexible, engaging, and easy to prep. Others include Number Boxes and the Skip Count Game.

I have workshopped this game through several different iterations; here’s the current one.

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This Game, In a Nutshell:

This game is like mathematical Scattergories. Students get something to write with (marker and whiteboard, paper and pencil, etc.), and wait for the directions. I then tell students an operation (e.g. division). Then, students wait for me with baited breathe to reveal the next step. I set the timer for 2 minutes.

“The answer is… 8.”

Students furiously record as many division sentences with a quotient of 8. They discover that it helps to use mathematical structures and patterns to generate expressions quickly.

After the time goes off, students raise their hands to the air. They then have to choose their 10 favorite answers to share in a small group (3-6 players). Students then take turns reading out their expressions. For each unique expression, that no one else in the group has, students score 1 point.

Why I love this game:

  • It’s flexible. We can play it with lots of different content, and change it up based on current content or topics for review.
  • It helps students look for and make use of structure (SMP7). 
  • It requires few materials. Thankfully, all of these materials can be spontaneously gathered. Nothing needs to be copied in advance. With about 30 seconds notice, your class can play this game.

Sample round with seventh grade:

“We are going to play with division. And the answer is… 8.”

Students used lots of different patterns to generate equations.

Several students thought about adding consecutive groups of 8.

8 ÷ 1
16 ÷ 2
24 ÷ 3...

Other students started to use place value patterns.

80 ÷ 10
800 ÷ 100
8000 ÷ 1000...

Some students used negative numbers (and another strategy, like consecutive groups).

-8 ÷ -1
-16 ÷ -2
-24 ÷ -3...

And still others used fractional numbers mixed with these previous strategies.

-0.08 ÷ -0.01
-0.16 ÷ -0.02
-0.24 ÷ -0.03...

Some students used this ÷ for their division symbol, and others used /.

Students then had to select their ten “favorite” expressions to share. Students often wanted to choose their most ‘creative’ expressions, although it’s all a game of chance. Students might have the same ‘creative’ ones, and yet no selects 8 ÷ 1.

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The seventh graders then journaled about and shared their strategies. We generated a list of words they might want to include for a word bank, e.g. adjusted, strategy, factor, divisible, multiples, etc.

Sometimes we journal, sometimes we just share, and sometimes we’re crunched for time and we just move onto the next thing.

 

Here are some sample journal entries from another group. Students used division to find an answer of 20.

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Playing the Game

Download directions

Grade level: any grade where students can write numbers and perform operations

Time Frame: at least 5 minutes, ideally more like 15, and conceivably 30+

Materials:

  • Something to write with and on. (e.g. paper and pencil, whiteboard and dry erase marker, etc.)
  • Optional: a timer

Planning:

  • Choose an operation, and an “answer.”

Procedure:

  • Distribute things to write with and on.
  • Announce the operation (e.g. subtraction, multiplication, etc.)
  • Announce the answer. “The answer is…”
  • Set timer. When timer goes off, students must finish the expression they are working on and stop writing.
  • Students choose 10 of their favorite expressions to share.
  • Students break off into small groups to calculate points — 1 for every unique expression within their group.

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