Valentine’s Day and middle school and math, what an interesting combination. Before middle school, Valentine’s Day is all about candy, cards, and pink frosting. But when you get to middle school Valentine’s Day takes on a different meaning and can leave some kids in heartbreak. What does all this mean for math class? I try to keep out the drama, but add a little fun around Valentine’s Day. Here are a few simple ideas and activities that you can use to add a little holiday fun and not get into all the craziness of the week of Valentine’s.
Some of these ideas are free resources, some of them are just ideas that you can customize to your classroom, and some are resources available on TPT.
If you haven’t used mazes in your classroom before this is a great time to try it out with a Valentine’s maze. There are many of them out there and you can find them on TPT or Pinterest. The hardest part may be finding one that matches what you are learning right now. I use a maze as a bell ringer almost everyday in my class. Students love them. By adding some heart clipart you can make them festive. If print and go is what you are looking for, then look no further. Mazes are the ultimate print and go resource that brings a nontraditional flair to the math class room.
I use a series of conversation heart sentence stems to get kids talking about math. This print and go activity is available here. After students complete their work, I ask students to pull one of these sentence starters out of a little bucket on their desk. I give them a defined amount of time (2-3 minutes) to talk about the math they did using their individual sentence starter. Each partner or person in a group contributes to the conversation by completing the sentence that they drew. You can do this a few times when students are working with worksheets or task cards. It seems so simple, but it does a good job of getting students to have math conversations in a non-threatening way. And each time is a little bit different depending on what conversation heart students draw.
Valentine Math Paper Chains
Using paper chains as a way for students to work in partners is very engaging. Students work together to find answers to questions or problems. Then, they get their answers checked. After that, they put their chain together. In my class we connect all of the chains and we have a hallway where we hang all of our chains. It is a visual way of showing our work. You can easily make paper chains Valentine’s themed by adding Valentine’s clipart to the chain and by using red, pink, white, and purple paper. Kids enjoy doing this activity. Below are pictures from the 7th grade review paper chain activity we did this year for Valentine’s Day:
Use candy hearts as manipulatives
Of course, this doesn’t work with every topic, but you could use little conversation hearts for hands-on math manipulatives. They could help out with additive inverse where one color represents positive numbers and another color represents negative numbers. You could have students use them to show how the Pythagorean Theorem works visually. They could color code a net with a different color of heart for each congruent shape. Also, equations can be illustrated by using different colors of hearts.
Another idea is to practice combining like terms with conversation hearts. You could have students sort them by the sayings (“cutie pie” would be one group & “love ya” another). Then, have students explain how that relates to combining like terms. There are so many different ways to use candy hearts as manipulatives. If you have another idea, or are looking for a way to use this with a specific topic, drop a note in the comment and let’s brainstorm something awesome!
If you have never heard of think, pick, flip, check before, let me tell you about it. Students have a card with worked problems on the front. They evaluate if the problems are correct or not. Then, the correct questions get marked with a paper clip and the incorrect get left blank. Students then check for accuracy by flipping the card and looking at the back. Correct answers will have a picture and incorrect answers will have correct version of the problems.
What’s great about this activity is that students don’t know how many correct answers there are, so they have to evaluate all of the choices. Want to try one out? I have a freebie for you with one card for each of the following universal topics: one-step equations, proportions, and integers. This is perfect for a math center, review, or as an anticipatory set. And as a bonus, it has cute Valentine’s pictures!
Heart Attack your door with finished problems
When I was in college we would put a whole bunch of paper hearts on someone’s door and call it a heart attack. It It served as a great way to show someone love or friendship. My idea is to print or cut out a whole bunch of hearts on pink, red, and white paper and have students use them as scratch paper. Every time they do a problem they complete it on one of these hearts. Then, they add their heart to the door. It may sound cheesy, but 7th grade and 8th graders aren’t anything if they’re not cheesy.
I love these pennants from Scaffolded Math and Science due to the collaborative nature of them. Also, student love having their work displayed, especially if they put a lot of effort into making them pretty. She has 20 Valentine’s themed pennants with slope-intercept problems on them. Each student can complete one or a few of the heart pennants and then display them on a string. It’s available for purchase, or you could make something similar for your students. All you would have to do is design some hearts and put problems on them. For me, personally, I happily bought them for my class because it would take me a couple of hours to make them. A few buck was more than worth it for me.
Valentine’s stuff as an incentive
This seems like an obvious one, but my students will do anything for a little candy. I use it to get students to participate in class or as a prize. I don’t over do it. It is not something that we do everyday, but it can definitely have an impact on helping kids to feel comfortable participating in class.
Occasionally, I will have a kid who asks everyday if we are going to get candy today. When this happens I remind them it is not a everyday thing and if they ask then we won’t do it today. That works to clear up that issue. You can also use stickers, little toys, or erasers as incentives. Even 7th and 8th graders love this. The key is to not overuse these kind of rewards.
Valentine’s themed challenge problems
This is a DIY tip. You can think of challenge problems with a Valentine’s Day tie-in that relate to the topic that you are studying. One or two of these problems for the few days around Valentine’s Day will work. You can use them as anticipatory sets, homework, or for fast finishers. An example of this is to ask students to find the area of a heart. Or, you could do story problems about a cupcake shop on Valentine’s Day.
Another idea is to have problems related to how much someone spends on their boyfriend or girlfriend for Valentine’s Day. We did a problem like this and my students were shocked at the unit rate of roses. If you have another idea for great Valentine’s Day problem topics, or want a little help coming up with one for the topic you are teaching, drop a note in the comments and let’s put our heads together!
Just like the mazes, coloring page are easy to find on Pinterest and TPT. If you can’t find one that’s right for you, here is a little tip to make you own, with a little prep. You could go to openclipart.org or pixabay.com and find a picture that is a blackline picture. Take any worksheet that you already have, take the answers from that worksheet, and put them in the different parts of the pictures. Voila! You now have your own coloring page related to the current topic in your class.
So many topics in 6th grade, 7th grade, and 8th grade involve graphing and it is skill that most kids could use some practice with. Having a graphing activity with some themed pictures can add some festive cheer to you class. Here is a Valentine’s Day graphing freebie on TPT from Rigorous Resources by Lisa. You can use this as an assignment for the whole class or for fast finishers.
If you want to add some challenge to it, have your students create their own picture and write out the the coordinates. If pictures are too intimidating, they could draw a word instead.
Try One Thing…Valentine’s Day Themed Activity
I have a philosophy of, “Try One Thing”. Over the years I have seen people get overwhelmed by so many ideas and as an academic coach I emphasize to try one thing. I have seen veteran teachers and new teachers adopt this philosophy. Over time, all of those “one things” add up. They collect so many new strategies in their tool box and their lesson engage their students. So my hope is that you try one thing. Try one of the free ideas, DIY your own take on an idea presented here, or check out the paid resources to save some time. You can check out our Valentine’s Day Math activities here and see if they work for you and your class. Until next time!
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