Do your students have a difficult time remember how to add and subtract integers? Isn’t it maddening? I could get on my soap box and go on and on about how we should teach integers, or how we should start with negative numbers in kindergarten, but this is not a soap box kind of post. Therefore, I’ll stick to making a list of amazing activities that will give your students a whole boatload of practice with adding and subtracting integers.
When we practice skills like adding and subtracting integers, I like to make sure that there are a lot of types of practicing and that we do them over a long period of time. This past year I taught a class of 12 seventh graders who all were at a math skills level of 4th to 5th grade. By the end of few months of a little bit of practice each day they were all experts in adding and subtracting integers. It was so rewarding to see. But practicing the same skills day after day can sometimes feel a little stale, so we practiced with a lot of different games and activities. This list has some that we used and some that I plan on using this upcoming year.
List of activities:
- Integers Mazes
- Integers Card Game
- Life-Sized Number Line
- Task Cards
- FREE Practice Worksheets
- Zip-Loc Bag Number Line
- Fluency Circles
- Online Games
I use mazes a lot in my classroom (you can read a bit more about the many ways they can be used here). For my math lab students we started every class with a maze. I used the a three maze set over 3 days in a week, and then a couple of months later I used the same 3 mazes again. Students grabbed the maze on their way into the room and then they worked on it independently. I had to remind them to not use a calculator. I also reminded students to refer to their interactive notebook about the rules for adding and subtracting integers while solving these problems.
When students finished their maze, they brought it maze and their work to the back table where I checked their maze. This gave me a perfect opportunity for specific and timely feedback for all students. When they were finished and all problems were done correctly, then they moved on to the next activity.
We started using Quizizz as a way to practice fluency as a school. Quizizz is an online game that has many games available that other teachers have made for their classes, or you can create your own. Then, students can work on them at their own pace through “homework” mode. If you’re familiar with Kahoot, it’s similar in the way students are presented with questions.
We spent many days working on Quizizz games with adding and subtracting integers. I made the Quizizz questions or borrowed them from another teacher in the public bank within Quizizz for each daily activity. Then, I got the activity’s code for the day and shared it. All of the 8th grade classes, for example, used the same code. This helped us as a grade level to see how we’re doing and help students to get better. (Once again you have to remind students to not use a calculator.)
One of the cool things about Quizizz is that there’s a little friendly competition and kids love to do the challenge each day. I have students record how they are doing in the back of their notebook. I have them look at their accuracy and make sure that they are improving from day to day. Using Quizizz to get more practice with integers is relatively low prep and can have a great impact on fluency for adding and subtracting integers.
It’s crazy how you can turn something into a “game” and all of a sudden people want to participate. This integer card game uses playing cards to practice adding and subtracting integers (see the inspiration in this post). Here are the rules:
- Red cards are negative and black cards are positive
- Each player is dealt 6 cards.
- The rest of the deck is placed in the center of the table.
- You turn a card over and then each player tries to make a combination of cards that equal that number. (See example below)
- Everyone that make a combination that works gets a point. Then, they discard the cards they used and replace them with two new cards.
There are definitely other ways that you could play this card game. I think the key is that students are playing and practicing integers at the same time. I have a set of huge playing cards and I love to use them with the class because they think they are funny and ridiculous. And everyone knows that junior high kids love the ridiculous.
Practicing integers is a great skill to practice on whiteboards. We use whiteboards almost on a daily basis in my class and you can quickly review a skill with whiteboards. Usually, I show an integers expression on the projector and they have to copy it, simplify it, and show it to me. Due to the fact that this is fluency practice, they don’t have to show their work. This gives the teacher a great opportunity to see how fast students are getting at the skill. This can take less than 3 minutes and everyone gets a little reinforcement.
Sometimes you want to practice a skill with a whole class game. Bingo happens to work rather well as a review game. My bingo game comes with 36 unique game cards. I have students mark their half sheet bingo game card with a different symbol for each round that we do, making it possible to play several games with the same game board. Usually, I have little prizes for winners like stickers, candy, or trinkets. This is one of my favorite sponge activities and the kids always get excited when they hear that we are going to play bingo.
Another great whole class review game is Kahoot. If you haven’t played it before, you should totally try it with this topic. Students answer the questions independently as they are displayed on the projector to the whole class. They receive points for speed and accuracy. The game has music and a timer and the students really get into it. Here’s an example Kahoot you can use to practice integers. If you search within Kahoot, you’ll find many more to choose from.
Life-Sized Number Line
Ultimately, we want students to be able to add and subtract integers with automaticity. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want them to be able to see in their mind’s eye what is happening when they are adding and subtracting integers. Making a life-sized number line is a great way to help make this concept concrete for students. (Also, I’m obsessed with using painter’s tape on the floor or walls, especially to make number lines. So this is the perfect way to feed that obsession)
If you have a few numbers lines made in your classroom or in the hall, then you can have students practicing going up and down the number line. Also, this gives them a little background in number lines that can be transferred later to coordinate graphing.
Of course task cards appear on this list! They are a fantastic way for students to practice independently. Task cards can be used in so many ways to give students more practice. I use task cards that have the answers on the back for self-checking. You have to teach students about self-checking and that it’s not about just getting the right answer. The emphasis needs to be on finding and fixing mistakes.
I’ve found integer task cards to be very successful with students and would recommend incorporating them after students are somewhat proficient at the skill. This is another activity that you can use again a few months later as a means of review. If you keep the task cards organized, then you have a great review activity prepared to just grab and go when you need one.
Well, sometimes you just have to go back to the old worksheet. That is all that these worksheets are, but I have used them to reinforce this concept with countless students and they work. They may not be shiny and exciting, but they get kids to focus on what they are practicing.
This series of 3 worksheets (click to download for free) increases in complexity. Also, these worksheets include some variables and combining like terms practice with adding and subtracting integers. I hope find them helpful for your students.
Zip-Lock Baggie Number Line
Making a number line with a Zip-Lock baggie is a new activity to me and one that I have not tried in class, but I want to try this year. You take a piece of paper and put a number line at the top and slide it into a Zip-Lock bag that has a slider at the top. Then, you use the slider as a way to show what is happening with the integers when you add and subtract them (see the inspiration here).
I love the visual aspect of this and that students get to manipulate the number line. In my opinion, students just can’t get too much practice with number lines.
When I saw fluency circles on Pinterest from the blog My Math Imagination, it instantly caught my eye. This approach would work great with SmartPal sleeves. Plus, it’s a way of having students practice fluency that’s more novel. They don’t know which problem is coming next. You could have a double-sided blank template waiting for students to use when you need it. Fluency circles seem perfect for fast finishers and sponge activities as well as a great anticipatory set when you are bringing integers into a new topic.
Over the years the internet has collected a large variety of math games. Of course, the quality of the games vary, but there are a lot of kids that like to play these types of games. They add a novelty to practicing a skill. They’re something that you can have on your Google Classroom or website for students to play for homework, as fast finishers, or for bell ringers. Here’s a few games I found that you might like for your classroom:
- Spider Math Integers-I like how this game gives students a chance to play around with integers and to build their number sense related to them.
- Fruit Splat Integer Addition-This game has a lot of options for speed and complexity, so even a novice can play it. Plus, it’s kind of like Fruit Ninja which is one of my favorite games.
- Line Jumper-This is a game from FunBrain and it incorporates number lines into the practice that students are doing. You can increase the difficulty as you go.
Try One Thing…
So, this post presents a lot of ideas of how to practice adding and subtracting integers. I hope that some of them are new ideas for you and that you are excited to try something new. Try one of these ideas with you students and let us know how it went. Get your students engaged and help them become experts with integers. Thanks for reading! Until next time.
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