Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A winning review activity

My students always complain that we don't play enough games in class. I know they love games, but most of the games I've seen are quite ineffective. "Showdown" is one of my favorite review activities for my older (more mature, more motivated) students in Algebra 2, but it doesn't work so well for my freshmen in numeracy.

To many of my students, tic tac toe is a riveting activity to be played surreptitiously during a dull lesson, or after a test. I thought I would capitalize on that, and so I present to you:


The students are broken into pairs that collaborate against other pairs. Each group of 4 is given a game board with several tic tac toe grids on it. One pair picks X and the other gets O. Turns alternate with each problem. When the problem is shown, both teams should work on it. If it is X's turn, if they are right, they get their square. If they are wrong, and the O's are right, the O's get to steal a square. (Students took a while to get this - at first they all thought it was unfair). When a game is won, the winning team gets a point. At the end of the activity, whichever teams won more games get a prize.


The benefits:

- All students are engaged on every problem. Even if it's not their turn, they can steal if the other team is wrong.
- Students have a partner to collaborate with, so weaker students are not put on the spot and can learn during the activity.
- Pairs monitor each other for cheating - they can only get the square if they've shown their work.
- Tic tac toe is the funnest game on the planet. Apparently.
- Generic mechanical pencils in fun colors come 30 to a pack for $5. Great prizes! Mini candy bars work too.

Enjoy! Let me know if you play it and it works (or doesn't work!) for you.

7 comments:

sam shah said...

Thanks for this. We have review days for the final coming up in Algebra II and I'm at a loss as to how to review effectively. If you get a chance could you describe "showdown"?

Dan Greene said...

Hi Sam,

I posted about it here. You can send me an email if you want me to send you a file with example problems.

Please comment if you come up with any good collaborative activities that actually work.

CdnMathTeacher said...

Love this idea! I have my students do lots of stuff in groups/pairs. I like the idea of stealing squares so that everyone is engaged all the time. I'll try it out with my gr 10 precal's next week.

Cipolla Dolce said...

Sorry I'm a little late to the party, but, I'm a big fan of something I call the "row game". The kids get partners, and everyone gets the same worksheet. The sheet has two columns of problems - A and B. One partner does the problems in column A, the other does the problems in column B. BUT, the problems in the same ROW have the same final answer. The students are instructed that if the answers in each row don't match, they should work together to find their mistake. I try to pair stronger students with weaker students, and this activity has worked like a champ at every level I have taught. They stay engaged, they work hard, they help each other, they get validation when their answers match, and I just walk around and put out fires when they can't figure out a mistake.

I like your tic-tac-toe idea, though, I will definitely try it. You're right, for some mysterious reason they think it's the funnest game ever.

Dan Greene said...

Thanks, Cipolla. I've tried that activity a couple of times, but didn't really invest much energy into it. I think I'll give it another go next year - maybe if it is a more frequent style of pair work I'll see better results.

Steven said...

"Collaborate" and "against" in the same sentence?

Dan Greene said...

Why not? Isn't that what all teams do in competitions - work together effectively to beat another team?