This activity works for a wide variety of grades! In this mathematical twist on the popular card game, Spoons, students practice evaluating simple, mental-math expressions that are of the following four forms:
*negative plus a positive integer
*negative times a negative integer
*n*x/n=x (ex. 2*(3/2)=3)
*square roots of perfect squares
I use this high-engagement activity in the first week of school with my Algebra 1 students as an icebreaker and to help them remember much of the mental math they learned in middle school and upper elementary school. I also let my students play it whenever they finish a task early throughout the year (they beg to play it!).
This activity focuses on the mental math that many of my student frequently get stuck on, especially after a long summer break. If you teach middle school, this would be a perfect activity to use as an activity as you are teaching integer operations in class. When I student taught in a middle school, I used this as a daily warm-up activity for a week, to help students internalize these frequently missed types of problems.
Brief Overview of Gameplay (full instructions included in activity):
There are 52 cards in the deck that each simplify to the numbers 1-13 (there are 4 of each). Students work in groups, each student getting dealt 4 cards. Spoons are put in the center of the group members (use one less than the number of people in the group). You can also use pencils, instead of spoons. The goal of the game is to collect 4 cards of a kind (4 that evaluate to the same number). This is a very fast-paced game, so students are motivated to improve their mental math skills.
Once each student has been dealt 4 cards, each player takes one card that they don't want, and discards it by passing it to the player to their right. That player can then choose to keep the card they were passed and discard one they already had, or they can discard the new card and keep their current hand. This process repeats until one player gets 4 of a kind. The first player to get 4 of a kind, subtly reaches to the center of the group and takes a spoon (or pencil!). From there, other students follow suit as soon as they notice a spoon has been taken, which can take a while since students get really into the game. The student who doesn't get a spoon is out. Repeat until one player is left.
This game is great for encouraging discussions about pattern recognition and seeing regularity in structure. My students love this game and play it all throughout the year, keeping their skills sharp. I hope your class will love it, too! Check the preview thumbnails to see the level of difficulty for these problems.
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