Saturday, February 22, 2014

Make Math Fun: Word Problem Scavenger Hunt

I am a big believer of hands-on classroom activities and kinesthetic learning, because I find that kids learn more effectively that way. They apply their knowledge in tangible ways, which makes lesson recall so much better once assessment comes.

This week, I had to do a complete do-over and reteach three-digit addition and subtraction for my class. This is one of the hardest concepts second graders have to master, especially when there is regrouping and subtracting across zeros involved. By the end of the week, we wrapped up the concept with word problems, also a skill that needs much practice. Students seem to find it even more challenging to apply mathematical concepts with real life situations, or when number concepts are put into words. So, I decided to make a quick game out of it to motivate them.

I love using small groups and partnerships in my classroom, something that I wish I took more seriously when I was a student myself, because I personally would rather just work on my own. Bottom line is, collaboration works. If you're a teacher, whether in a regular classroom or if you homeschool, there is true value in interaction. And if your child doesn't have any siblings, be their partner when it's time to apply a concept. Work together and I guarantee that you will see results.

Our class is divided into three small groups, and for this game, they are given a set of instructions and word problems to work on together. Since my small groups are based on the unique learning styles and performance levels of my students, the problems given to them are also tailor made to fit their needs.

Word problems are posted all over the room, and each group will walk around and search for their word problems based on their group's specific instructions. Walking around the classroom while doing work is something that I am also a huge fan of -- there is nothing worse than having to sit for an hour listening to a lecture.

Some problems are located near 'clues', like this area where tips on how to regroup are located...

...while most of them are located in random places in the classroom. In this case, word problem #4 can be found in our language arts corner.

Some of them are located at the back of the room...

...or just right on our door!

For every correct word problem solved, a secret letter can be claimed. Once all groups correctly answer all word problems, the whole class will come together to figure out the hidden message...

...and claim their prize!

Collaboration in my classroom makes me one happy teacher!

The idea that they were solving a mystery to claim an incentive really works great. It's not like you're bribing your kids to master a skill, but rather teaching them that learning can be fun, hard work pays off, and working with your friends is better than having to struggle with a task on your own.

In sum, this activity addresses some of the most important things in successful learning:
  • Movement. Kinesthetic learning does wonders in the classroom, especially for young children who just can't sit on their chair for an hour-long lecture. That's pretty much how all of my students are, and how most young kids are, really.
  • Problem solving. This is a big performance task that should be addressed as early as elementary. School is about preparing yourself for the world out there, and good problem solving is something that will simply make the real world a lot easier to handle.
  • Collaboration. Young students need to be encouraged to work together and not isolate themselves. Interaction helps boost their language and communication skills. I've always believed that if a student can tell another student what a concept means, then I know that they have a good grasp and understanding of a lesson.
  • Positive reinforcement. Again, hard work pays off. There is always something awesome waiting for you when something is achieved.
More lesson plan inspiration:

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