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I've been teaching high school math for over 20 years. I write about my experiences here and also share activities that I have done with my classes that have been successful (and some that have been not so successful).
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Low Prep Math Review Game "Pick Your Points"



I needed a new review game that was SUPER LOW PREP, fun for the students (i.e. has a competitive aspect) and does not reward speed. I came up with this. I call it "Pick Your Points." All you need is a set of questions (e.g. a worksheet) and some items that you may already have in your classroom or home.

Inspiration for the game:
It was a Sunday, and I wasn't feeling well. I had been planning on playing Sticky Points in class, but I didn't have enough sticky notes at home, and my first class was 7:45am on Monday. I wanted a similar idea to Sticky Points, but with even less prep work.  Instead of using sticky notes, I decided to use some kind of a token for the students to pick blindly out of a container. More on that below.

A summary of the game:
Students work in groups to solve problems. When they have an answer, they show the teacher. If they get the question right, they select a token with a point value, and students earn those points. If they get the question wrong, they return to the group and try again. The group with the most points at the end wins. More details about how to play the game are below.


Materials needed:
1) Tokens for students to pick blindly out of a container (keep reading for ideas for tokens)
Each token had to have a different point value. I recommend 50 to 100 tokens.

2) A drawstring bag or other opaque container (keep reading for ideas for containers)

3) Enough copies of a worksheet/list of questions for each group to have 1 copy.

4) A printed copy of the answer key for the teacher.

5) A prize for the winning group (optional)


How the game is played

1️⃣Explain the rules to the students
2️⃣Put the students in groups and give each group a copy of the questions (tip: always explain the rules before putting the students into groups; do it the other way around, and they won't be listening.)
3️⃣As each group finishes a question, one person shows you their answer.
4️⃣If they got the question right, they could choose a token out of the bag. They are awarded the number of points that the token represents.
5️⃣If the group got the question wrong, let them go back to their group and try again.
6️⃣Keep track of the points on the board.
7️⃣The game ends when you run out of time, you run out of tokens (but it's easy to replenish), you run out of questions, or the students run out of steam.
8️⃣After you stop the game, sum each team's points and award the prizes!

The scoreboard at the end of one class.


Tips

  • To make this super low-prep, put the questions on a worksheet. You can leave space for them to show their work or not. You could easily use any worksheet or set of questions that you already have available.
  • Make the answer key. I had just a list of the questions and their answers all on one side of one piece of paper. This made it easy for me to check the students' answers.
  • Each token should have point values: ideally, you could do some positive and some negative, but you can make them all positive if it's easier. I did multiples of 10. (-10, +10, -20, +20, -30, +30, etc.). I made more positive points than negative points. I mainly did -10 and +10 and even the occasional +50 to make it exciting. Download the printable sheets that I used for paper tokens.

Variation:

  • Just like I mentioned in Sticky Points, you could have more negative points than positive points and establish that the team with the least amount of points is the winning team.
  • If you want to introduce more competitiveness, you could allow the groups to remove points from another group instead of picking points for themselves.

Ideas for the tokens:

I opted to make my own point cards as the tokens (click on the link under the image to download a copy). I printed them on cardstock paper (which I have at home) and cut them out while watching TV. I only needed one set of cards since I would just reuse the cards for each class. 

Click here to download the printable sheets that I used for paper tokens.


Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

Other ideas for tokens:
💡homemade point cards. (click to download my version) If making your own, be sure to have some cards worth positive points and some worth negative points.
💡Go DIGITAL and use Wheel of Names dot com but instead of names, put in point values! Like this: https://wheelofnames.com/hna-ehy. (Thank you to Olga J from my Facebook group for this idea!)
💡pack of 100 colored dice. This set even comes with a drawstring bag you could use as your container!
💡mini index cards. Write the point values on one side of the cards. 
💡poker chips. Make each color worth a different point value.
💡UNO deck. Make wild cards worth 50 points, specialty cards (e.g., reverse, draw 2, etc.) worth 20 points and all other cards are face value.
💡playing cards. Use more than one identical deck so that you have enough. Make jokers worth 50 points, face cards worth 20 points, and every other card is either face value or 10 points.
💡blank playing cards. If you anticipate playing a lot, you could use these blank playing cards and write the point values on them with a permanent marker.
💡raffle tickets. If you have different colors, you can make each color worth a different value, write the point values on the back, or use the last 2 numbers printed on the ticket itself for the point values
💡Scrabble game pieces. Vowels are worth 20 points, q&z are worth 50 points each, and all other consonants are worth 10 points.
💡puzzle pieces. Got an old puzzle lying around? You could make end pieces worth 20 points, corner pieces worth 50 points, and all other pieces worth 10 points each.
💡dried beans
💡colored paperclips (all the same size)
💡nuts, bolts, screws, or washers. Avoid using nails or screws to prevent injury.
💡stickers. These can also serve as the prize for the winning team!
💡plastic counting discs Maybe you know an early childhood teacher with a set of these that you could borrow.

How many tokens do you need?

The most you would need is the number of groups times the number of questions in the activity. 

For example, I have 9 groups (of 3 students) in my biggest class. My activity had 15 questions. 9x15 = 135. The highest number of cards I would need is 135. But I can get away with using fewer cards because (a) not all 9 groups will get through question 15. I would likely either run out of time or stop the game once the first couple of groups finished, and (b) I could always put the tokens that had already been chosen back in the bag.

If the questions don't take very long to solve, you will probably need 30 to 40 questions to fill a 50-minute period.


I used the blue drawstring bag for the students to choose their tokens.
I used the trick-or-treating bag as the discard bag.

Thoughts on the container

The primary requirement for the container is that it be opaque. I didn't want my students to try to cheat and see the tokens before they picked them. (Nor did I want my students to feel any difference in the tokens - hence they needed to have the same size and shape.) I used a medium size drawstring bag as my container.

I also brought my son's old trick-or-treating bag, which worked perfectly as the discard bag - but you could have students discard their tokens on a desk/table or any other container/basket that you have handy. (My students were quick to tell me that the trick-or-treating bag was too small to hold a lot of candy, and I needed to get a larger one for my son 😊)

Ideas for containers:
📦brown paper lunch bag. I have a stack of these in my house. I needed 10 of them 4 years ago, but in the grocery store, I could only buy a pack of 100!
📦gift bag. If you're like me, you have many of these in your house!
📦small canvas bag
📦reusable grocery store bags
📦plastic box from the dollar store
📦shoe bag You may have a few of these in your home, unused.
📦large opaque mug or cup
📦bucket
📦plastic flower pot

These types of bags would also work as the container from which the students pick a token.


Reflection

  • Similar to any game we play in class, students were engaged and motivated to get the questions right. 
  • In one class, the group that only answered 5 questions came in 2nd place, and the group that was the first to finish came in last place because they kept choosing negative points. They were not happy.
  • Despite some of them being disappointed that they did not win, many students requested to play the game again in the future.
  • I played music while the students worked, which helped keep the energy up.

Check out my related post: 5 Engaging Math Review Games that Don't Require the Internet.

When deciding which game to play in class, I choose a game that allows the students to work at their own pace; this keeps the slower students engaged because they don't give up thinking that everyone else is waiting for them to finish. It also keeps the fastest students engaged because they don't have to wait for the slower students to finish.


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