At the beginning of the school year each year, I teach square roots and cube roots. It’s a topic that’s both simple and fun. I like that we do this at the beginning of the year because it’s a win for students. They can “get it” and they start off with some confidence. This lays the groundwork for approximating irrationals numbers and lets us ease into the school year.
I wish that I had time to do more of these square root and cube root activities with students, but the first few days of school are jammed pack with getting to know my students and explaining procedures. So, I only get to do a few of them. We do have fun and students feel good about what they’ve accomplished. Each year I make sure to try at least one thing that’s new for this unit. I like to have the challenge and it keeps me from getting in a rut.
When I was in college I was a teacher aide for a few ELL students in a local high school. I remember one teacher who had overhead slides that he showed to the class and there was a smudge on one of them. It was very obvious that he used the same slide from year to year and he couldn’t be bother to fix the smudge. That experience is forever imprinted in my mind. I never want my students to think that making things special for them is too much work for me. These activities can be easily implemented, but they can also make the learning experience a bit more special and non-smudgy for students.
The following is a list of activities that are great for showing students square numbers, cubed numbers, square roots, and cube roots. I hope that there are a couple that you can take and use to make you classroom awesomer ( I know that’s not a word, but it should be!)
- Square Roots and Cube Roots Maze
- Tic Tac Toe
- Is it Equivalent to…?
- Build a Tower Activity
- Matching Game
- Mnemonic Devices for Perfect Cube Roots
- Square Number Cheez-It Activity
- How Many Cubes Can Fit?
- Shmoop Video
- Big Huge Square Roots Puzzle
- Make a Clock or Calendar with Square and Cubes
- Solving Equations with Square Roots and Cube Roots KAHOOT
Here’s a little description of what each one looks like in the classroom:
Well, if you’ve read any of my posts about math activities then you already know that I love mazes! And even better, my kids love to complete these mazes. During the first couple of days of school I had students complete these mazes on square roots and cubed roots, and I heard from multiple students that they love mazes. They get so engaged with this activity and it almost seems like they aren’t even working. Mazes for this particular topic are fast and easy. I use them at the beginning of class as bellwork. As I circulate the room I give students feedback and stamp their paper when they complete the maze accurately.
If you love mazes as much as I do, you’ve got to join the Maze of the Month Club. When you sign up, you get a free, exclusive maze for middle school math sent right to your inbox. Check it out!
This activity is a great partner activity that gets kids engaged and really talking about math. I love to see them using their strategy (or lack of strategy) in the tic tac toe games while they practice square roots and cube roots. This is an excellent sponge activity because it doesn’t take very long, but it does offer a little extra practice. I like to have it on hand throughout the year as an extra activity for cyclical review.
Have you ever played the game Guess Who? It’s a board game that I loved as a kid. When I first started making my own resources this was one of the first ones that I created. It works especially well for students with special needs and kids learning to speak English. Students draw a card from a deck and then the other person tries to figure out what the card is. The cards have square and cubed numbers on them in different forms. And just like in Guess Who? you can eliminate answers through asking each other yes or no questions.
I came across this activity on Pinterest. It looks like it wouldn’t take too long and that students would be able to see the relationship between different square numbers. Essentially, students make a little tower out of paper squares to see a visual representation of square numbers. The towers are perfect for putting into an interactive notebook for students to refer to later. This is a quick idea that you will be able to refer students to throughout the unit and throughout the year.
This matching game activity lends itself to working with students in special education, ELLs, and any other students who struggle with vocabulary. Sometimes we assuming that they all know the terminology and the truth is that many students don’t know the vocabulary related to square roots and cube roots. This matching activity gives them a chance to say, “the cube root of 125” or “the square root of 81” multiple times. I’ve used it with my students in my math lab class over the years and it work as an excellent support activity for them.
Sometimes in math there are things that can’t easily be learned mathematically. It isn’t super easy to just remember that the cube root of 343 is 7. It drove me crazy a few years ago that there would be a question like what is the cube of 343 on a district benchmark test and only about 80 percent of kids would get it correct. That is when I took matters into my own hands and made up some mnemonic devices for remember the cube roots. These are not based in math, but rather they are just ways to remember the cube roots 1 to 10 easily.
If you want to use these with your classes click here and get the freebie. It includes the mnemonic devices and a few different ways that you can practice them with your students. Since I started using these and letting kids make up their own, I honestly get about 98 percent of students getting cube root questions right on a benchmark.
I haven’t tried this activity in my class, but students love to use food when they do math. I am allergic to gluten, so Cheez-Its aren’t for me, but I love how this activity would engage students. In this activity, students have the chance to build some square numbers with Cheez-Its. I’m sure that they would remember that for a long time.
How Many Cubes Will Fit?
Sometimes you just need a good anticipatory set for a lesson. A demonstration works great to get students thinking and introduce the topic. All you need is a cube that is about 3-5 inches. Then get a one inch or one centimeter cube and ask students how many of the one-inch cubes will fit in the bigger cube. They make a prediction and then explain why they think that on their whiteboard. You’ll get all sorts of predictions. Predictions will range from way too few to way too many. Once students see the pattern with cubed numbers, they become a lot better at predicting.
Another way to build some background in an anticipatory set is through watching a video. I like the Shmoop videos because they’re silly. I usually give students a question or two to be answering while watching the video. Often, I show the video two times to the class and then we talk about the question(s).
Possible Question for this Video:
What does a square root symbol represent?
What is the formula for a cube root?
Describe something new that you learned from this video.
My advanced math classes will be doing this puzzle with a partner. They have to complete the puzzle and know the square roots. It makes the practice a little more challenging. They have to take a little extra time to make sure that they are doing it right. Some of my advanced students have the tendency to work too fast. This puzzle slows them down a little bit. They seem so accomplished when they are finished as well. This puzzle was created by MathCathy and is available on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Make a Clock or Calendar using Radicals
One of my colleagues used to have a clock that had square roots for the hours on a clock. Recently, I saw a calendar that was similar. This would be a cool project to have fast finishers work on during this unit. They could be as clever as they want to be to create a clock or calendar like this. They could make a short video where they explain their work. I’m excited to try this one out and see how the kids do with it.
Finally, a great way to review square roots and cube roots is with a Kahoot game. Students get excited to show off their square root knowledge with a friendly competition, and Kahoot is a great way to do that. To play, students just need their own device. Then, they enter the game code and go. This game is a perfect way to review and cap off this topic.
Try One Thing…
I hope you choose one activity from this list and try it in your classroom. With all these ideas, you are the one who knows what works for your students. Find the activity that is right for them and have some fun. Trying to spice up some of the lessons that you already use by adding a little extra twist can help students be more engaged and get more out of your instruction. Plus, you’ll be so excited when your students are having fun and learning at the same time. But please, don’t feel any pressure to add all of these activities at once- that could be overwhelming. Just remember that you are the one who can make your students’ math dreams come true! Thank you for reading! Until next time.
Join the Maze of the Month Club
Join to get exclusive free math mazes every month!