Reviewing is an essential part of learning. It’s how our brains remember and keep things from slipping away. Sometimes it can be very tempting to have students review by only answering test like questions and then going over them with the class. The downside of this is that it’s boring and not memorable. Also, it goes against best practices for teaching and learning. So, I would like to present an alternative way to review that is action packed, fun, and engaging. Of course I’m talking about games! There are so many ways to practice math concepts and skills using review games.
Games can be played as an individual, with or against a partner, with a small group, or with the whole class. Using a variety of activities, or games, can help spice up your classroom and boost your review. Different topics lend themselves to different games types. Some games are competitive and other games aren’t. In my class, I try hard to use the components of games that make people like them, but I also make sure that they don’t get overly competitive or focused too much on winning.
Games for independent review
Mazes are one page activities with 16-20 problems on them. Students work through the problems to find the correct answers to the problems help them get through a maze. This individual activity usually take 10-20 minutes depending on the topic. Topics work as mazes as long as they are skills based. The problems have to fit in a small box, so not everything fits in a maze. You can make your own maze, or there are lots of them on Teachers Pay Teachers. Also, if you want a free maze delivered to your inbox each month then join our Maze of the Month Club. I don’t mean to brag, but it’s pretty awesome 🙂
Sorting pockets are activities where students put little cards into categories. Typically, this works an individual activity, but it could be done with partners. This works best with topics that have natural categories. Some examples that work with sorting pockets are How Many Solutions to a System of Equations?, and Square Roots and Cube Roots. Sorts work great as an anticipatory set or something for fast finishers to do. I make a class set and then have students work with them over the course of a couple of weeks. These are great for review because students have to make judgments about numbers and equations. They physically categorize the cards and can re-use the sort over and over to get more automatic with identifying key concepts.
Matching games get students engaged and review at the same time. In some matching games students match 3 or 4 characteristics to one item. On the other hand, sometimes students are matching a question with an answer. Either way, this gives students the chance to use little manipulatives and to see the information presented in a different way. You can have students do this with a partner or by themselves. If you have more than one matching game you can use this as a center and have students rotate from one matching set to another. These matching games are easy prep, hands-on practice and they get students solid practice.
With Quizizz you can have your students practice math skills on the computer every day. You can use quizizz that are already prepared by other teachers or you can make your own quizizz. I have found many quizizz for just about every topic I have looked for. Students work on the quizizz individually and they can see how they are doing compared to others. You can take the quiz too and see if they can beat you. (My students LOVE competing against the teacher!) We choose a skill and do a quiz every day for that topic for a few weeks to help us review. I like to use “Homework” mode because everyone doesn’t have to be on it at the same time. It also has a timer feature that can be turned on or off. Kids love this program.
XP Math has a lot of different games related to middle grades math. Students play the games like video games. Many of the games are based off of classic video games or game shows like Wheel of Fortune, Metroid, Deal or No Deal, Minecraft, etc. Adding the video game aspect gets kids engaged in practicing many topics from Pre-Algebra, Algebra, and Geometry. Here are a few games I have used with my students:
Games for partners or small groups
I have seen scavenger hunts done different ways in different classrooms. The most important part is that students get up and moving around the room. If you add the component of trying to find a hidden message or a race aspect to the hunt, students can really get into the activity.
The scavenger hunts that I use have 12 questions. I post one question per paper and place them around the room. In partners, students go around the room and answer the questions. Each multiple choice answer has an object assigned to it. Students then get their answers checked after each question. You can put up two different copies of each question so that there are plenty of questions to go around.
Even my most reluctant learners really get into this game.
A maze battle is a twist on the mazes that we use in our classroom on a regular basis. I have a few maze activities that are designed as battles with three mazes in a row. Then, students compete against a partner to see who can reach the finish line first. When students are battling each other it is important that you have students who work at similar paces working together. Also, my maze battles have two teams, fire and ice. You can have the partners battling against each other as well as all of the players on Team Fire vs all of the players on Team Ice.
I put a timer on the overhead projector that is counting up and students can look up to see when they finished. They get a penalty for not coloring the arrows or for getting one wrong. We just played this activity the other day and they really enjoyed it. I even had a little token prize for the winner 🙂
Who doesn’t love Tic Tac Toe games? This is a class favorite. It usually doesn’t take very long and can quickly review a basic skill. In my experience students need to know the concept pretty well before playing tic tac toe, or this game can spiral into a simple game of tic tac toe with not a lot of math happening. You can find tic tac toe games on Teachers Pay Teachers, or you could even have your students make a game board that they play with each other. Basically, to make this game into math tic tac toe, students simply take turns answering questions. When they get a questions right, they win the square with their x or o.
Students love to play QR code games. It’s one of those games where students don’t even realize they have completed a whole bunch of practice. This game consists of task card like problems with two QR Codes, one that tells students the answer and another QR Code that tells them how many points they have earned. If they get the correct answer, they get the points. If they don’t get the correct answer they put the card back into the pile and their opponent gets a crack at it. The point values are random so someone can win even if they don’t answer their questions as fast as the other person. You can read more tips and tricks for using QR Codes in this blog post.
I have to admit that the first time I saw paper chains I thought they looked silly and like a waste of time. My mind quickly changed, however. I tried one last year to review scientific notation with my students, and I have been hooked since then. Right now my 7th graders are trying to get their paper chain to go around our entire common area in our building. Every time we complete a paper chain activity, we add it to the huge paper chain out in the common area. We are about a quarter of the way around the room. It is a great visual for to show their work. In addition to being a visual representation of students’ work, I also like the partner work that goes into putting the paper chain in order before they actually make the chain.
Cootie catchers in the math classroom? Absolutely! While some people call this activity a fortune teller and others call it a cootie catcher, either way it’s a simple twist that’s a real winner. It can be done as a person versus person game. Or, you can use the cootie catcher as an individual activity. Either way, it’s a fun twist to choose different numbers to get to the problems. This adds a little novelty and get some kids more involved than if the same questions were just on a worksheet.
Show down is a great small group game to practice any math concept. To play show down, you just need a set of questions or task cards. Have students get into groups of 4 and give each student a whiteboard. The group turns over one question and all students do the work. When everyone is done with the problem, you flip the card over to reveal the answer. Everyone with the right answer gets a point. Also, students can talk about their answers before or after they have seen the answer. This game works as a way to get students talking about math.
Review games for the whole class
We play this game a lot in my classroom throughout the year. I love it for a review game because everyone is engaged and I can work through problems with them in a game environment. Between the competition and the fun graphics, students are more keyed into solving math problems and understanding the explanations.
This is what on of the game boards looks like:
Basically, there is a game board with a whole bunch of characters. A student chooses one of them. Then, a question in shown and all the students work it out on their paper or whiteboard. I use whiteboards a lot, so when students finish they show me their work. This gives me an opportunity to see who gets it and who doesn’t. Next, the answer is revealed in the screen and students who got it right get the points. I don’t emphasize the points very much, but the kids seem to like counting points.
There are some bonuses and students really like that part because the bonuses can be good or bad. This game is a great way to review. Your students will love it. (You can check out the Knockout games we play in my class here).
I use Jeopardy games in my class a couple times a year. With Jeopardy the questions are organized into different categories, and I like that aspect of it. I don’t play Jeopardy in teams because I have learned throughout the years that one or two students do all the work and the other kids just go along with it. Instead, we all play the same questions and students either work in partners or individually. Then, students keep track of their points. Jeopardy is a classic review game that can help mix things up in the math classroom.
Task cards have so many different uses for the math classroom. I love playing this target game with the class because it is so easy. I display a task card on the projector for the whole class. Students work on it on their whiteboards. We go over the answer and then I choose a student to throw a suction cup ball at the target I have drawn on the board to find out how many points the questions is worth to the class. After a few rounds, we play double or nothing. The students can throw it a second time to try and get double points. All the students who got the answer right get the points that the student who threw the ball landed on.
It’s so simple, yet they have so much fun. They really get into it and it gives us a chance to practice sportsmanship skills, as well. You can check out even more ideas for using task cards in the middle school math classroom here.
This is a whole class, web-based game. You make an account and then you can either find games that others have created or you can make your own games. Students each need their own electronic device and they can play along. They just go to the website and enter the game code. There is definitely an aspect of speed to this game. After each question students see a leader board and can see how they are doing. Most of the students get really excited when it’s time to play Kahoot.
Another great use for task cards is the SCOOT game. To play SCOOT, place a task card on each desk and then give students 1 minute or so to finish the card. Then, everyone scoots to the next seat. There’s not competition in this game. But it does get the kids moving. There’s no time for anyone to just sit there and do nothing. The movement and small time frames encourage everyone to complete the problems.
Also, I have the answers on the back of the task cards so students can check and see how they did. If they got a problem wrong, I ask them to look back and figure out their mistake. Focusing on learning from mistakes is a way to encourage growth mindset and help students own their learning.
This classic game shares a lot of the same characteristics with the other whole class games that I have shared here. There is an aspect of luck to Bingo because any card could be a winner. Usually, I have some type of little prize like jolly ranchers or cute erasers for the winners. Students appreciate these little tokens and some of them get really excited to win.
Try a one new game to review
Maybe you have played all of these games in your classroom or maybe you have never played any of them. What I love about these review games is that most of them are low prep. You can find free versions of these games, make your own version, adapt a resource you already have into a game, or find them on Teachers Pay Teachers. These games are some great ways to spice up your review and get away from just doing boring review worksheets.
I challenge you to try one of them and see how your students respond. I promise that more kids will be engaged and review the concepts at the same time. Let us know which game you tried and how it worked out in the comments below. Thanks for reading! Until next time.
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