I've rounded up some simple and affordable ideas for teachers and parents to use to encourage logical reasoning skills! They're all quiet activities that are great for students to work on individually at a desk, or parents can throw them in the car, take to a restaurant or even on a plane for some tech-free entertainment.
Here are my favorite screen-free activities (affiliate links included) to strengthen critical thinking and problem-solving skills:
1) Puzzle Squares: These were always first to go off the shelf! Students love rearranging the squares to try to get them all to fit together. They are harder than they look! They stack up nicely and easily fit in a ziplock bag. So easy to throw on a shelf or stick in a purse.
2) Izzi Cards: These little black and white cards are so fun! You have to arrange them up so the colors match up and see if you can fit them all together. The box comes with enough cards to divide up into multiple ziplock bags so several students can play at their desk at a time or use them all together to make a larger pattern.
3) 24 Game Cards: Kids love this game! If you have not played it, you need to give it a try. You must use all 4 numbers on the card only once and can add, subtract, multiply, or divide to make 24. Such a great way to help improve mental math skills. You can play it individually or as a group and see who can come up with an answer the fastest. I always kept a stack of cards available for my students that wanted to practice - they got pretty competitive!
4) The Triangle Game: Such a classic. So simple, but kids love it! I keep mine in a ziplock bag for easy transfer and storage.
5) A Tangram Set: I have a few different tangram sets that I put in ziplock bags. Great for developing spatial awareness and problem solving skills!
6) KenKen and Sudoku Puzzles: Many of my students loved to do KenKen or Sudoku puzzles so I would tear some out of a book to have available or find some free ones online to print. For those of you who haven't tried KenKen puzzles before, they're like sudoku puzzles but use basic math operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division).
7) Kanoodle: This puzzle kit has 12 different colored pieces that you must fit together to match the diagram. It comes with a little book of 200 different puzzles that start pretty simple but work up to deceptively hard 3-D puzzles! So great for improving critical thinking and problem-solving skills. My first-grader can do the puzzles at the beginning, but the 3-D ones are hard even for me! It comes with a little carrying case that's small and easily fits in my purse. My daughter likes to do these on long car trips.
8) Brain Teasers and Logic Puzzles: I used to have a whole stack of books with fun brain teasers and logic puzzles. I would tear out a few pages and make copies to have available for students. Sarah Carter has a whole slew of free printable ideas over at her blog, Math Equals Love, that you should check out if you need some ideas! I would recommend laminating them so you can reuse them!
What about you? Any activities you think I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments!
There's no question that cell phones can be a huge distraction for students. It's an issue that's impossible to ignore. Cell phone addiction is a real thing. I've had students who would rather be expelled than be separated from their phones. So what's a teacher to do? Embrace technology and try to have students use them in productive ways? Or find ways to keep phones out of sight? I've found that a combination of both strategies is helpful. Smartphones can be an amazing learning tool, but they can also be extremely distracting. We all know that there are students who will bring their phones to class even if they're banned. So how can teachers use them to enhance learning and also make sure they're put away at the appropriate times? Here are a few ideas:
1) Pocket Points App
Have you heard of this app?? Pocket Points is an amazing way to reward students for staying off their phones in your class. Not an affiliate link, I just really like the app! It's free for teachers and you can set up your own rewards (think extra credit, snack rewards, tardy passes, deadline exemptions, etc.) You can set a goal for how long you want them to be off their phones and the app keeps track of their phone use. Not only can students earn the rewards you set up, but they can also earn local and online deals. They've got free Chic-fil-A sandwiches, discounts at Papa Johns, and more! Using Pocket Points is an easy, non-punitive way to track phone use and reward students for using their phones at appropriate times.
2) Use QR Codes
One easy and fairly low-tech way to use smartphones in a productive way is to use them to scan QR codes! Use a free QR code generator like this one to create your own. You can create QR codes that link to an answer key, an image, a website, and more! All students need to do is download a free QR reader. You can even create scavenger hunts using QR codes. Check out my Algebra 1 Review Task Cards or my Multi-Step Equations Scavenger Hunt with QR codes to see some examples of how you could use QR codes in your math classroom.
Boom Cards are digital task cards. Students are shown one question at a time and get instant feedback on their answers! They work best on a larger screen, but cell phones will do if you don't have access to tablets or desktops. Grab a free set of Boom Cards or check out the Top 7 Reasons to Love Boom Cards for more details.
For those of you teaching Algebra 1 this coming school, I've rounded up some free resources for you! (free as of 7/19/19)
Grab the activities below:
1) Multi-Step Equations Relay Race by All Things Algebra
2) Combining Like Terms Task Cards by Gotta Luv It Creations
3) Slope Graphic Organizer and Guided Notes by Jenna Jackson
4) Properties of Equality and Real Numbers Poster by The Enlightened Elephant
5) Algebraic Expressions Math Flips Game by Misty Miller
6) Slope Poster by Scaffolded Math and Science
7) Last, but not least, I just updated my free set of Order of Operations Boom Cards. If you haven't tried Boom Cards yet, I highly recommend giving them a try this school year. The instant reports for teachers and feedback for students are amazing. Your students will beg to play these digital task cards!
I am so late to the Desmos party! I used to think Desmos was just an online graphing calculator, but it is so much more! The team at Desmos has developed so many great activities and I recently discovered the card sort feature that is AMAZING.
In a nutshell, a card sort is a digital matching activity. You can use it for about any activity where you want students to categorize or sort things. I created a Graphing Linear Equations Card Sort to show you how it works!
In the activity I created, students have to match up the linear equations with their corresponding graphs. I made 7 cards with equations and then used the Desmos graph tool to add the 7 matching graphs. When students open up the activity, Desmos will randomly mix up the cards so they'll see a screen like this:
Want to make your own Boom Cards and aren't sure where to start? (What are Boom Cards?) Have you already tried creating your own decks and need a little help making them look more polished? You're in the right place!
I've created an online course that will walk you through the basics of Boom Learning and help save you time and confusion about how the process works. There's always a learning curve with new technology - let me help you! I'll walk you through the process of creating and publishing your own decks and break it down into manageable steps.
*This post contains affiliate links.
Have you discovered Boom Cards and want to start using them in your classroom? Here's an overview of the set up process to help you get started. Just be careful - Boom Cards are addicting! (Did you land here and have no idea what Boom Cards are? Check out the Top 7 Reasons to Use Boom Cards!)
1) Go to Boom Learning and click on the green Sign up button.
2) Join with your email, Facebook, or Google account.
3) Once you've created a username and password, click on the Library tab.
Assign: Click this to assign the deck to students. You can assign it to one class or multiple classes (or to individual students). If you choose this option, it will record student scores.
Fast Pin: Use this option if you want students to practice and don't want to record their scores. It will give you a link that students can use without needing to log in. Once students have this link, they click on the FastPlay option at the top and type in the pin to start.
Hyperplay Link: This gives you a link that will prompt students to log in and then play will begin. Grab this link if you want to post it in Moodle, Google Classroom, etc.
Print: Click this if you want to print a hard copy of the cards.
Hide Cards: Use this if there are any cards in the deck you don't want students to see. Great option if the deck is too long or if there are cards that aren't quite what you were looking for and you don't want to assign them to students.
Hope that helps you get started!
P.S. Want to learn how to create your own decks of Boom Cards? Check out my Boom Cards Bootcamp! It includes 18 short video tutorials and 100+ images you can use in your own decks!
If there's anything teachers need more of, it's TIME! After spending far too many weekends grading, I am always on the lookout for anything that can help teachers save time. Google makes it easy to create an activity or assessment that's graded automatically. You can set it up to let students see their scores and correct answers after they've submitted it (or not, it's very easy to change these settings). You can create multiple-choice questions, fill-in-the-blank, and more! Check out the steps below to see how to automatically grade a Google Form!
Step 1: Create a Google Form
Open up your Google Drive and click the New button.
Next, click on the Google Forms option (you may have to click on the More button to show the option). You can choose a template or start a blank one.
Type your questions or upload images to use for your questions. You have several options for the type of answer you'd like students to submit: short answer, paragraph, multiple choice, etc. If this is your first Google quiz, you might want to start with the following options:
Multiple-Choice: Students click on the one right answer.
Short Answer: Great for one-word or numeral answers.
Checkboxes: Similar to multiple-choice. Great if you want students to choose more than one option.
Once you get the hang of it, you might want to try the other answer types. Keep in mind that Google won't be able to grade paragraph answers, you'll have to go back and grade those manually.
You could even just type in the problem numbers from an assignment you've given from a book, worksheet, or printed assessment you've already made.
Click on the plus sign on the right to add another question. You can move questions around if you want them in a different order.
These digital, self-checking task cards are my new favorite way to help students practice a skill. Here are the top 7 reasons I'm a fan:
1) They're DIGITAL. No printing, laminating, or cutting out sets of paper task cards. Less prep = more time for teachers.
2) They're SELF-CHECKING. Students type in their answer and get instant feedback! If they get a question wrong, they can submit a new answer or "give up" the card and go to a different question if they get stuck.
3) You can use Boom Cards for free. There are lots of free decks available (here's an example). You can always use Boom Cards for free by using the Fast Play option (see my post on getting started with Boom Cards for more details). This option allows you to create a link to send to students. The Fast Play option doesn't record their answers, but you can upgrade for a small fee if you want to track student progress! Right now they're offering a free trial period when you sign up if you want to test it out. You'll always be able to use the Fast Play option for free even after your trial period ends, you just won't get student reports.
4) You can preview 4 cards from any deck for free. Try it before you buy it! Check out this preview to see an example. Make sure to click on Full-Size preview to get the full effect.
5) It's super easy to differentiate instruction with Boom Cards. Once you have a deck of cards in your library, you can assign them to individual students or to the entire class.
6) Not 1-1? Use them on a Smart Board or use a projector to work on them with the whole class.
7) Did you know you can use Boom Cards with your Google Classroom? Check out this video to see how.
Update: Boom Learning just added a new feature that makes me love them even more! You can now hide any card in a deck that you don't want students to see. Simply go to your library and open a deck. You can go through the deck of cards and click the "Hide Cards" button on any you don't want to be assigned.
Download a FREE set of Boom Cards
Want to test out a set of Boom Cards? Grab my free set of Order of Operations Boom Cards. I also have a whole bundle of Algebra 1 Boom Cards if you want to see some more examples. I hope you give them a try - your students will LOVE them!
Working on solving systems with elimination? Check out these resources for Algebra 1 teachers! First, there's a free lesson on solving systems with elimination. The online lesson includes examples, a video, and even a practice quiz with instant feedback.
There's also several accompanying resources available to use with the lesson. There's a study guide, an assessment, and an activity where students have to solve systems using elimination to fill in the words to a funny poem.
Looking for some extra ways to help students learn to factor quadratics? First, there are two FREE Algebra 1 lessons on factoring. The first is on factoring quadratics with a leading coefficient of 1 and the second is on factoring with larger leading coefficients.
There's a great set of factoring quadratics task cards available to help students practice factoring on their own. You can print the cards with or without QR codes (students can quickly scan the QR codes to check their answers!).
There's another printable activity available to accompany this lesson: factoring quadratics speed dating. Never tried speed dating in your classroom? It can also be called Quiz Quiz Trade. The idea is for students to quickly "date" as many other students as possible. Students form pairs and answer questions on small printed cards. They check the answers on the back, trade cards and quickly find a new partner to repeat the process.