Thursday, April 12, 2018

Ideas to Create Your Own Escape Room Puzzles

     In my last post, I talked about the huge multi-day escape room activity I was doing to review for state assessments.  I've done two days so far, and it has really been going great!   If you're considering designing your own escape room style activity, here are a few tips to consider.

math escape room

1.  Start with the skills.  As with anything in education, you've got to start with a clear idea of what skills you want students to practice.  Otherwise it's easy to get lost in planning fun puzzles and lose track of what's really important.  For my escape room activity, I started with a list of the top eight skills that I most wanted my students to practice again before state assessments.  From there, I knew that I wanted one puzzle to go with each topic.

2.  Try using a worksheet/activity that you already have.   Some of my puzzles were fancier, but some of them were pretty simple.  Some of the simplest puzzles were simply a list of problems from a pre-existing worksheet, and an answer bank.  When you're planning an escape room activity, there are all sorts of codes you can have: letters, numbers, directions, colors, and shapes are the first that come to mind.  So when you put down your answer bank, just attach a letter (or number or color) to each answer and there you have it!  Students solve the problems and use the answer bank to find the correct "code".

3.  Make clues that force students to do all of the problems you want them to do, not just some of them.  As I was creating clues, I started off with clues like "The answer to problem 2 plus twice the answer of problem 5".  If all of your clues are like this, students will only complete the problems that they have to in order to get the code.  If you want them to complete all of the problems, consider having at least one clue that forces them to look at all the answers, such as "the difference of the largest and smallest answer".

4.  Get creative and add some fun and interest to the puzzle with fake generators.  There are all sorts of cool sites that allow you to generate fake text messages, tickets, receipts, etc....    Simple things like these can add some fun to your escape room activity.  Here are a few links to get you started:
                                     Fake Text Messages
                                     Fake Concert Ticket Generator
                                     Fake Headline Generator
                                     Fake Receipt Generator
escape room math review

5.  Get creative with how you let students know the correct order of the answers in the code.  I tried to vary this to keep my students thinking.  Here are some things I tried:

  • Used a colored border at the top of the paper.  Each problem had a colored dot next to it.  Students had to match the order of the border to get the answers in order.  
  • Put a different letter with each problem, and then give a clue how to rearrange those letters to spell a word.  When I tried this, I had a puzzle about surface area.  The boxes held the letters A-N-I-S-T.  Somewhere else on the page were the words, "A very good person".  Students were supposed to come up with the word saint.
  • Put a different word with each problem, that spell out a common phrase.  Students organize the answers according to the phrase.  One of my puzzles had four sets of problems, and each set of problems would leave students with one number.  The boxes were labeled with these words: ALLIGATOR LATER YOU SEE.  Students had to reorder the numbers to make the clue say SEE YOU LATER ALLIGATOR, and this gave them the 4-digit code.
  • Use a visual clue.  One of my clues, I simply had a different number of dots on each section.  Students were supposed to put them in order from one dot to five to find the correct code. 
Good luck helping your students to escape the classroom!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

I'm So Excited to Review for State Testing....

....said no teacher ever.

Except this year.

Because I am.

I'm planning a 3 day study session for state testing.  I've mapped out the most important topics to review to help my kids show what they know.

But the awesome part is I'm planning to do it Escape Room style, so I think it will be awesome!

math escape room

This will for sure be the biggest Breakout I've ever attempted but I think it will fine.  I'm going to have 8 boxes, but each with just one lock.  Each box will be focused on a different topic:  circles, surface area, factoring/distributive property, solving equations, percents, scale drawing, statistics, proportional relationships and one general review.

math review escape room

I'm going to put a link to a review video on each puzzle so the kids can watch a quick review if they need help.  The boxes can be solved in any order.  As teams break in to a box, they will find a piece of one final puzzle and some money.

The whole point of the Breakout will be to collect as much money as possible.  At the end of the Breakout, we will have an auction where teams can bid on items to buy.

One of the other things that I'm really excited about is that teams will also be able to earn extra money for the auction by exhibiting good teamwork and collaboration.  I based this on the idea of participation quizzes from Mathematical Mindsets by Jo Boaler.  I adapted the rubric from the book to this situation, and went over these expectations before we began.  Click below to download what I used with my class as I introduced this activity.  I was REALLY pleased with how this helped.  I talked specifically with my classes about the fact that I didn't want them to "divide and conquer" the puzzles, but to work together.  I only had groups in one class that split up....most groups worked together as I asked them to!

Teams that finish all of the boxes can earn additional money by completing the final puzzle, which they get the pieces to when they break in to all of the boxes.

At first I thought I was going to plan all of the puzzles...but then I realized that I could use stuff that I already have.  So I've created a few puzzles from scratch, but for several of them, I've just used existing worksheets or puzzles and found a way to turn them into an escape room style puzzle. 

escape room encourages collaboration

I used these puzzles as several of the games:
 Graveyard Scale Drawing Scavenger Hunt
Percent of a Number Warm Up Activity
7th Grade Review Puzzles

Some of these were ready to go as puzzles.  Some of them needed some minor adjustments to make into a puzzle.  I'll write another post about how I made some minor adjustments to turn things I had into a puzzle.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Oh, how I love Basketball in March!

      I sit on my couch, watching the last game of what has been an insane weekend of basketball.  I am a college basketball fanatic, and since Thursday I have watched a LOT of basketball.  What a weekend of basketball it has been....I've watched a #1 finally lose to a #16.  I've seen buzzer beaters, 20 point comebacks and 20 point losses by really good teams.

     And as I watch all of this, one of the things that I keep thinking is....I can't wait to talk to the kids about this!  We did a fun simulation of the first round of the tournament, so I think they will get a kick out of the unexpected things that have happened in March 2018.

     The simulation was super easy to set up, and only took about 10 minutes in class.  Plus it was a great way to introduce the idea of  simulations to my class the week before spring break when it was hard to get them to care about anything!

     I based it all on these statistics:

         I used a variety of materials to create simulations for each of the games.  Here was what I used:
  • 1 vs. 16--bag of a bunch of colored blocks with just one white block to represent the 16.
  • 2 vs. 15--bag of 19 red blocks and 1 blue block to represent the 15.
  • 3 vs. 14--rolled a 6-sided die with 5 sides for the 3 and 1 side for the 14
  • 4 vs. 13--rolled a 10-sided die with 8 sides for the 4 and 2 sides for the 13
  • 5 vs. 12--rolled a 6-sided die with 4 sides for 5 and 2 sides for the 12
  • 6 vs. 11--spun a spinner with 5 spaces for 6 and 3 spaces for the 11
  • 7 vs. 10--spun a spinner with 3 spaces for the 7 and 2 spaces for the 10
  • 8 vs. 9--flipped a coin

Then the kids filled out the form below, and then we simulated the entire first round.  We went through each of the trials listed above 4 times, and I made it clear that students had to have them in the correct order.  I made everyone stand up, and as soon as their bracket was no longer perfect, they had to sit down. In every single hour, every kid was sitting down by the time we got to the 4-13 games!  Click on the picture below to download this form.

     This was really fun.  I know I'll do it again next year.  One thing I think I'll do differently next year is have the KIDS design how to test the simulation.  I will demonstrate how to pick your materials with one of the games, and then assign each table one game to decide how to simulate.  Since each table will only have to come up with 1 part of the simulation, I still think it will be fast.  But since the kids will have to make some decisions about how to set up the simulation, I think they will get more out of it.

     After we finished the simulation, I showed this short 3-minute video explaining the odds of getting a perfect bracket.  The professor in the video does a great job of explaining the math behind why a perfect bracket is so hard to get.   

Saturday, February 24, 2018

New Twist on Task Cards: "Be the Expert"

       I like task cards, but I feel like I'm always looking for some way to make them better....more exciting or fun....or something.  Well, I finally found what I was looking for.  For the moment, I'm calling this version "Be the Expert" task cards.

     It's a pretty simple twist on task cards, but for me it was just what I was looking for to take task cards to the next level.   I made the task cards with the idea that you would fold them in half, kind of making them into a tent.  On one side is the task card.  On the other side is the answer, along with space for students to work out the answer.


     Each student gets one card, and they keep that card for the entire activity.  Each student must work out the problem that they got on their card, and "be the expert" for that problem.  Students then walk around, partnering up with different students, and completing each other's problems.    As students try to work each other's problems, they can help each other through it.

Here are 4 things that I loved about doing task cards this way:
1.  It got kids moving.  This was an easy way to incorporate some movement in my class, as students moved around to change partners.
2.  It helped all kids feel successful, and be successful.  Each student was in charge of understanding one problem and being able to help others.  This gave my quiet students and struggling students a chance to gain confidence.
3.  It led to great discussions.  As I listened to student discussions, I was impressed at the quality of help that I heard them giving to each other.  They weren't just giving answers, but really helping each other figure out what went wrong when it was not correct.
4.  Easy way to make sure kids get instant feedback.  Students had the answers when needed, so they could monitor their own help was built in when they missed problems!

Tips if you plan to try this:
1.  Have some kind of "waiting place" for students that are waiting for a different partner.
2.  Make sure kids know that they can't work in the "waiting place".  The first time I did this my "waiting place" area kept moving around because kids would start working itthere!

     One of the great things about this idea for task cards is that you could do this with any task cards that you already have.....just print them on paper, write the answers on the back, and you're ready to go.  When I made mine, I decided to fold the task card like a tent (so the answer would be on the back) this left the inside available for some more questions.  I decided it would be a great place for an exit ticket!  If you're interested in some ready to go "Be the Expert" two-step equations task cards, click here to see them in my Teachers Pay Teacher store.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Ideas for Celebrating Pi Day

     Pi Day is a day we all love as math teachers, right???  A chance to shine light on math in a fun way.  So here are some fun ways you could celebrate Pi Day this year. 

1.  Do a Pi Day Breakout.  Breakouts (like an escape room for the classroom) are lots of fun, and great to teach those "soft skills" we're always hearing about, like collaboration and perseverance.  A quick Google search for Pi Day Breakout turned up lots of free resources.  Here's a link to a digital Pi Day Breakout, but you can find more pretty easily!

2.  Play Rolling for Pi.   This quick game is a fun way to start things off for Pi Day, or something you could do if you just have a short time to celebrate.  I give each student a six-sided number cube.  Then I have everyone roll together, and you get to remain standing as long as you are rolling the digits of pi (in order!).  So on the first roll, only those kids that rolled a 3 would remain in the game.  Then they would roll again and try to get a 1, and so on.  The kid that rolls the most digits of pi is the winner.  This game works fine with 6-sided dice for the first several digits of pi (3.1415), and you could just declare anyone that got this far the winner.  Variations of this game include using 10-sided dice or having students create a spinner to use.

3.  Pi Day Puzzles.   I have a fun (FREE!) Pi Day Sudoku puzzle in my Teachers Pay Teachers store that would be fun.  There are two puzzles; one has Pi Day trivia, while the other other has students calculating problems with circumference and area of circles.

4.  Pi Day chain contest.  This is another great way to get kids working collaboratively.  Divide your class up into groups of 3-5 students.  Each group is supposed to make a paper chain with the digits of pi in the correct order.  The group with the longest chain of accurate digits in the time given wins.

5.  Pi Day Trivia.  Take a quick break and play some trivia.  My kids love to play trivia when we have a few extra minutes.  A quick Google search can find lots of free trivia.

6.  Pi Day STEM Challenge.  I'm going to have kids create the smallest circular "landing pool" for a daredevil to dive into.....but it has to be big enough for the daredevil to hit the pool 10 times in a row!  My "diving board" will be a ruler, and my "daredevil" will be a simple pencil eraser.  You can see the set up below.  After the kids create the pool, they have to find the surface area.  Click here if you're interested in full supporting materials for this lesson!

7.  Write a Pi Day story.  Want to get your English teacher involved in Pi Day?  Here's a fun one for them!  There are two ways to do this.  One way is to have kids write a "story"....the catch is that the word lengths in the story have to follow the digits of pi.  So you start with a 3-letter word, then a 1-letter word, etc...   Another variation, is to have the kids write a normal story, but they have to work in the digits of pi in order.  This one gets fun because words like "to" count as a two, and "won" counts as one.

8.  Make pie!!!   The science teacher on my team gets involved in the day by having the kids make a cream pie as a lab, using Bunsen burners.  We have parents donate ingredients, and have half the kids make chocolate cream pie and half make butterscotch cream pie.  Then of course, at the end of the day, we eat!

9.  Pi Day problem hunt.  Give your students a printout with one page of pi digits printed out.  Have them look for problems within the digits.  The problems can be simple (1 + 4 = 5) or more complicated ones using order or operations.

10.  Pi Day Hopping Races.   If you are able to take kids outside or to the gym, this one might be fun.  Have a race where students have to hop the digits of pi.  3 hops on one foot, 1 hop on the other foot, 4 hops on the other foot, etc....

11.  Pi Day Goose Chase.  Ok, I  have to admit that I haven't tried Goose Chase EDU yet.  It's like a digital scavenger hunt.  It looks super fun, though and I'm dying to try it some time.  Here is one I created that would work for Pi Day.  Click here to see the one I made.

12.  Pi Day Scavenger Hunt.  Speaking of scavenger hunts, a paper scavenger hunt is a more traditional option.  Last year my class had a great time with this.  I had pictures posted of all kind of circular objects with the radius or diameter labeled.  Their scavenger hunt list included things like "something edible with an area of 15" or "something hot with a circumference of 20 in".  The kids got a little creative with it, and it was fun!  Click here to get one that is ready to go from my TpT store..

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Student Issues with Complementary and Supplementary Angles

        One of our first units of the year is Shapes and Designs.  Part of this unit involves teaching angle relationships, such as complementary and supplementary angles.  As with any topic, there are a few things that can cause issues for students when learning about angle relationships.

      Issue 1:  Remembering the vocabulary.  One pretty obvious issue is that students have to remember the definitions of complementary and supplementary.  I have a pretty effective (although geeky) way that I help my students remember this.
      For complementary angles, I ask my students, "You all like compliments, RIGHT?".  At first they look at me confused.  Then I ask again, and I start to get a lot of  "I see what you did there" kind of nods as students realize way I said RIGHT so loud!  So this becomes a mantra in our class for a week or two.       
Getting silly often helps my kids remember things!

     Now if you thought complementary was a geeky way to remember, hold your socks....supplementary is even better!  :)  For supplmenetary, I tell my students that I'm going to introduce a new "mathematical" way of greeting one another.  You walk up to someone, with both arms held straight out (the straight line in supplementary angles) and say "WSUP?".   At this point, I get quite a few groans and eye rolls, but as I walk in to class for the next couple of weeks, I will be greeted by a chorus of WSUPs!

     Issue 2:  Understanding what the vocabulary means.   This issue was less obvious to me at first.  I was working with a student at study hall, and he could tell me the definitions of complementary and supplementary, but he couldn't do much else related to complementary and supplementary angles.  At first, I was struggling to figure out the problem.  Finally, after telling me what complementary meant, I told him to draw me a picture of what complementary angles looked like.  This kid looked at my like I had grown another head!  In all of our work with complementary and supplementary angles, the pictures had been provided.  When I had him draw his own set of angles, a light bulb went on and he really made that connection to what the definition really meant.  The longer I teach, the more I realize that having students create or even just visualize their own models of situations is very powerful, rather than always providing them for them.

     Issue 3:  Arithmetic errors.  Now this one is pretty silly, and pretty easily corrected....but can we just take a moment and groan for all of the times that my students told me that the complement of a 32 degree angle would be 68 degrees.   Students rush and forget to borrow when they subtract.  The good news here is that usually a simple question like, "So 32 + 68 is 90?" and students quickly realize the mistake.

     Issue 4:  Setting up the equations.   I had a few students that could easily find the complement or supplement, but going from that to a problem with an equation was difficult.

I found that having the student repeat the definition, and then use their own words to frame a question was really helpful.  It would go something like this:
                    Me:  Are these complementary or supplementary?
                    Student:  Complementary
                   Me:  What does complementary mean?
                   Student: Two angles that add up to 90.
                   Me:  So what two things add up to 90 in this picture?
For many of my students, this was enough to help them make the connection and set up the equations.

     Issue 5:  Understanding what the answers meant.   When we started working with equations, many students were confused about solving for the variable in equations like above, and the actual measure of the angle.  We had many class discussions about this, and I made it a practice to ALWAYS ask for both the value of the variable and the measure of the angle.

What issues have you had with angle relationships, and how did you help your students?  Comment below!

If you need some stations, notes or games to teach angle relationships, click here to see what I have in my TpT store.  There's a free angle relationships golf game, as well lots of other stuff!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

"Math-y" Christmas!

    Ok, this will be a short post.....but I just have to tell you how excited I am about my classroom Christmas tree this year.

     We decided on a 3:1 ratio of green pyramids to other colored pyramids for the "decorations".

     I'm excited.  The kids are excited.   What a win-win!  And it's been pretty easy.  The only supplies I've needed are colored copies of a net for a triangular prism and tape.  One day for my warm up, I reviewed surface area and had every kid fold up one pyramid.  And that is the only class time I've taken to do this.  The rest was kids taking these home to work on, or kids that wanted to work during our advisor/homeroom time at the end of the day.

     I will definitely do this again next year.  I think one thing I will change is that I will use the chance to more fully review surface area and make kids draw the height in on the base of the pyramid.  Then I'll have them find the surface area.  I'll probably also give them 10 minutes or so to decorate their pyramid, but you wouldn't have to do that.

Patterns.  Geometry.  Math.  Art.  Beauty.  Creativity.  Christmas Decorations.  It's perfect!

NOTE:  When I get a chance, I'll post a pattern for the pyramid, but you can Google search and find one pretty easily.