Are you looking for ways to practice operations with scientific notation? Then, you are in the right place. If you are looking for how to teach operations with a scientific notation read this post. If you are looking for a way to introduce operations with scientific notation with a discovery activity read this post. In this post I will share 9 practice activities you can immediately use in your classroom that support students effort in learning how to multiply, divide, add, and subtract numbers written in scientific notation.
Here is a list of 9 activities that help students to practice operations with scientific notation. You probably won’t have time to do them all, but you can pick and choose what works best for your students.
- Shmoop Video
- Coloring Page
- Task Cards with Target on Board
- Knockout Game
- Diagnose the Problem
- How Many Stars are in the Galaxy?
- Performance Tasks
There is a set of videos that I love to use as anticipatory sets in math class. I like them because they are novel, silly, and do a good job of introducing a topic. This video is more for what scientific notation is rather than operations, but it serves as a great opportunity to build background. The video comes for Shmoop.com and is called scientific notation. The video is 2 minutes long and it can be watched a couple of times. I usually have students write a reflection or answer a question when they are watching a video like this.
Possible questions while watching this video:
- What is the central idea of this video?
- Label the parts of a number in scientific notation?
- Why would someone want to write a number in scientific notation?
Diagnose the Problem
This is a technique that I came across lately. I can’t remember where I found it, but I have loved using it. Each student has a whiteboard and the teacher puts a worked problem on the board. The problem can be done correctly or incorrectly. The students then look at the worked problem and diagnose it as “sick” or “well” and explain their diagnosis. If it is incorrect it is “sick” and it is correct it is “well”.
If you are the playful type of teacher you can tell them they are doctors and call them by Dr. Matt or Dr. Maria when they answer the questions. They love doing this and it is a different way to present the information. The nature of the activity makes them have to pay attention to everything that is going on.
For this particular topic I used a couple of problems from my task cards for operations with scientific notation. I did this at the beginning of class and we did 3-4 problems. It was an engaging way to get students thinking about what we had done the day before.
Independent Practice Operations with Scientific Notation Activities
There are many different ways to practice and one that has become one of my students’ favorites is coloring activities. A couple of years ago when I first started seeing these I thought they looked like a waste of time. When I started making some of my own, I made the picture smaller than some of the others I’ve seen and students don’t spend that much time coloring, maybe 4-5 minutes. For this topic there are two coloring pages that I use. One of them has multiplying and dividing. The other one has adding and subtracting and we do it two days in a row. We complete one worksheet each day.
This type of activity helps to keep students motivated as they work. I usually sit at my horseshoe table and have them check their answers with me as they are going. I don’t go over all of the problems as a class. The feedback that I give is more individualized for this activity.
If students need more practice then I have them work through the problems on this riddle page with a partner. This is also an activity where I have students show me their work as they go. It helps me to give them immediate feedback and I can see exactly where their major problems are with the concept.
The cheesy riddles keep them engaged and they want to complete the problems to figure it out.
Whole Class Activities
The other day I felt like things were getting stale with my modeling problems portion of the lesson. I went into my tool box of ideas in my brain, and I remembered a game that I made up many moons ago. Basically, we do problems together on the doc cam and students work on the whiteboard. The catch is, after each problem one students gets to throw a little suction cup ball at a target drawn on the board. There is a possibility of getting 100, 300, 500, or 1000 points. All students who got the correct answer get the points where the ball sticks.
Also, I give them a double or nothing challenge. They can throw a second time and if they hit the same score or higher they get double. If they hit lower than the first time then, they get nothing. Later in the game I add triple or nothing which means they can throw it a third time and they get triple points as long as they hit the same point value or higher, otherwise they get nothing.
We did a lot of practice problems. I used task cards as the problems we were working on, which made this a no prep activity. The kids were so engaged in what we were doing. One of them even asked if we could do this the whole class period. That’s when I knew something is working. I use the whiteboards to see their responses and to give feedback and I can work with all the students at the same time.
One great way to review for a test or to see how the class is doing is through playing whole class games. There is a game, that I created, that I love playing with my class called knockout. It can be played with or without an interactive whiteboard, but all you need to have is a projector. This is how it is played:
This is the student score card. They each have one and they do their work and keep track of their points on it.
You project this onto the screen. A student chooses one of the animals and a question is revealed.
Students answer the question and then you click to reveal the answer. If they get it right they get the points.
Some of the animals lead to a bonus for the student who chose the animal. Some of the bonuses are good and some are not so good.
You then go back to the animal screen and choose another question. Kids love the novelty and the bonuses.
This particular knockout game has word problems. This was a great way to look at some word problems together. I modeled the thinking with them and a few of the questions just focus on just identifying the operation used. Students struggle with knowing which operation goes with each problem and this gave me an opportunity to model my thinking. I use these types of games to teach and not just for them to do problems.
Cyclical Review Operations with Scientific Notation Activities
This is a free jeopardy game that I found on the internet. Be aware that It uses the ^ symbol for the exponents. It has a variety of questions related to exponents and scientific notation. Also, it is a fantastic cyclical review for this topic and it has some challenge questions in the miscellaneous. You can use it for cyclical review because it really mixes a couple of concepts together. I don’t play it in teams because I feel like one person does all the work and many kids get nothing out of it. You can play it as individuals or partners to maximize the playing time.
If you are looking to take this concept further and bring it into the real world you might want to try this activity by Robert Kaplinsky. It is a series of questions and videos. Students will really get to see how scientific notation with operations are used in real life. This activity might take a whole class period for students to work through. I have not used it yet, but I am excited to use it after state testing when I have time to get past skill building and can show students concepts in action.
My go to for performance tasks right now is illustrative mathematics. They have an awesome collection of performance tasks for just about every common core standard. For this topic they have 4 performance tasks. They can be used for fast finishers to work on in small groups or individually. They help to incorporate critical thinking, math talk, and writing in math. You will probably want to do a couple of them with the whole class before you have students work with them on their own.
Try One Operations with Scientific Notation Activity
So, I hope that these ideas can get your juices flowing. It can get overwhelming to try a whole bunch of new activities. My advice is to try one thing. Just adding one novel idea to your tool box can help boost student engagement in your class.
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