**Engaging Math Students**

As I look back over 22 years of teaching math, I think about which methods were the most effective. **What engaged and excited my students the most? ** How did I get them to work together with their peers to solve math problems? Not every attempt to engage my students worked well. I had many lessons fall flat, or just fail to motivate my middle school students. However,** I discovered a competition game that really worked well with my students,** and it was often their favorite, end-of-unit activity. Over the years, I changed the games to make them easier to implement. Rules had to be established. I started with hand-written cards, and progressed to printed, laminated cards that I could use again and again. I found methods of implementing the games that made it easier for me, and solved some of the behavioral issues that arose.

**Working in Groups**

In the beginning, I let students pick their teams. **Working in groups** of 4 or 5 seemed to work best. However, problems arose when students got too cozy with their BFF’s and refused to work. I finally found that these groups worked best when I chose the teams in advance. It was important to make sure struggling students and advanced students were mixed in heterogeneous groups. The lower-achieving students could learn from the higher students, and **observe their problem-solving methods. ** I encouraged students to talk about what they were doing, so students could learn from each other. And to increase the excitement of the games, I offered prizes for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishing teams. The competition aspect created an atmosphere of excitement that was fun to watch.

**How the Competition Games Work**

The idea of the game was to create 15 review cards placed in order from simpler to more difficult. The final question was a challenge problem, that took some critical thinking skills. The number of decks were equal to the number of groups. The number one card was placed face down on the desk of each group. Students were not allowed to turn it over until I said, “GO!”. Each group had small white boards and markers so that every group member could work on solving the problem. As soon as they agreed on an answer, they would write it on one of their boards A designated “runner” would bring the white board with the answer and their numbered card to the teacher desk. (Make sure the students form a line to one side, so you’re not surrounded by students pushing their way in to be checked.) If the answer was correct, I would take the numbered card, and give them the next card in the sequence. ** If the answer was not correct, they would have to run back to their group to try and solve again.**

**Creating the Card Decks**

In the beginning, as I mentioned before, I had to hand-write each card. They would often come back dirty and torn. Some students wrote on the cards so I couldn’t use them again. Now I have cards printed and laminated, so they can be used from year to year. These laminated cards are now ready to use to review **INTEGERS, RATIOS, GEOMETRY, EXPRESSIONS & EQUATIONS, and PROBABILITY** for 7th grade. When I moved to 8th grade, I added **EXPONENTS, SYSTEMS OF EQUATIONS, THE PYTHAGOREAN THEOREM, ALGEBRAIC EQUATIONS, SCIENTIFIC NOTATION, REPEATING DECIMALS TO FRACTIONS, and TRANSFORMATIONS. **I even added a **PI DAY** competition to be used on or near March 14th.

**Games Can be Purchased in My Teachers Pay Teachers Store**

If you want to avoid the extra work of creating your own cards, I have each of these available, ready to go. Or you can save $$$ and purchase the 7th grade or 8th grade bundles to cover the entire school year! Feel free to look over the previews here:

**REPEATING DECIMALS TO FRACTIONS**