Category: review activities

Total 4 Posts

I Told My Kids I Invented Bingo Yesterday

Brian Cormier:

I played [math basketball] today in class. Class versus the teacher. When I told them I never lose, this was all the motivation they needed.

This kind of hyper-authoritative faux-confidence informs at least 50% of my student-teacher interaction, letting me acknowledge to them that, yeah, I realize this particular lame-duck teacher is real, that I don’t like them any more than my students do, letting me have some cake and eat it too. We get along.

Math Basketball

I was digging through the dy/dan mailbag today and found a note asking me to explain what I have often referenced on this blog but never clarified. I swear, there isn’t any activity my kids enjoy more than basketball review. Here’s how it works:


  1. You bring in a set of questions related to the previous two week’s instruction.
  2. You put up a question.
  3. A kid stands up with an answer, either correct or incorrect:
    • If it’s incorrect, the student sits down, reworks the problem, and you wait for another student to stand.
    • If it’s correct, the student takes two shots with a miniature basketball into a lined trashcan. You award points according to a) the student’s distance from the trash can, and b) the competitive mode you’ve selected below.
  4. Repeat.

Competitive Modes

I have used four, each with their own recommendations. Listed in descending order of popularity:

  1. Class v. Teacher. The students take two shots for every right answer. The teacher takes one shot for every wrong answer. Highest point total wins either extra credit (for the class) or bragging rights (for the teacher).
  2. Class v. Class. One side of the class versus the other. Seed them by mathematical and athletic ability. Highest point total wins extra credit for their team.
  3. Free Market Capitalism. Everyone for him- or herself. Good for the final minutes of class. A student receives as many extra credit points (or pieces of candy) as he or she can score.
  4. Class v. Arbitrary Point Total. If you’re averse to classroom competition, let the class play as one, studying and shooting to pass an arbitrary point total.

Other Release Notes

  • Have the students turn in a paper with all their work on it. I make a big deal about this so everyone works the math through even if they don’t all shoot. Toss these papers after the last student leaves.
  • Encourage shy students to answer math questions and pass off the ball to another student if they don’t want to shoot.
  • Once a student successfully answers a question, she can’t answer again until the rest of her team answers, though she must still work through the problems.
  • Student conference is way out of bounds. If the idea is that everyone works hard on the math, allowing one student to source all the answers would be counter-productive. If I catch anybody whispering answers, I give the other team a shot.
  • Introduce an extraordinarily difficult and extraordinarily valuable shot halfway through the term, a 20-point shot through an open window, for instance.
  • In between the math review, toss in some extraneous nonsense. Name that flag, for instance.

    You can find these slides anywhere “basketball” is listed in my Geometry supplement.

Anecdotally Speaking

Bad Habits. Apparently a winter break’s worth of late bedtimes and late waking isn’t that easy to shake. I set five alarms over the last two days and didn’t wake to any of them. I’ve never been late to a class, not even in the last two days, but 30 minutes to grab breakfast, make worksheets, and set up shop is far too rushed for my liking. I don’t know how some of y’all veterans manage it.

Veering Off Content. My algebra class and I played review basketball yesterday in order to shake off the I-Totally-Forgot-This. The rules are pretty much what you’d expect: answer a math question correctly, shoot a plastic ball into a trash can for points, maybe prizes. Just a little circus with their bread.