Ways to Practice & Sub Plans


The past two weeks have been crazy intense at school leaving me with very little time to sleep. let alone blog, so I’m going to “cheat” and combine Sub Plans & Favorite Ways to Practice in one blog:

Favorite Ways to Practice:

If your students are anything like mine, occasionally they whine about having to practice, especially if it’s in the form of homework.  Most of mine play sports, so I typically ask if they would show up for a playoff game without having practiced.  Of course not.  Isn’t this the same?  They shouldn’t show up for a quiz or test without having practiced because they simply cannot master the Algebra skills without the practice.  Of course, the trick is to find ways for them to practice that they enjoy.

Although my students often groan at the puns, they do enjoy the Algebra with Pizzazz and Punchline puzzle sheets.  Sometimes I give these for homework but I also use them as a source of problems for students to work in class.  We do a lot of partner work, with one partner doing the odds and the other doing the evens.  Once they are done they check each other’s answers and then we do a variety of things!

* Math of Fortune!  Years ago I found the sheet to the right with varying point values (like Wheel of Fortune).  Icopied this onto cardstock and laminated them, and kids take a paper clip and use their pencil to anchor it to the center of the circle.  They “spin” the wheel by flicking the paper clip and recording their point value.  Students get one spin for each correct answer and typically I have top scorers record their scores on the board, and then the top three earn a jolly rancher or similar reward.

* Vegas, Baby! I bought these fun foam dice from Amazon last year and they were sooo worth it!  We use them for all kinds of things including generating points.  Similar to Math of Fortune above, kids complete problems with a partner and for each one they get right they get to roll the dice.  They record the roll of the dice for each turn and add them up at the end and see who has the highest score.  We also use the dice to replace variables on other worksheets (students work in groups of four, so all four should have the same answers).  We also use the dice to generate values that we use for statistics.

* Snakes & Ladders – someone in my district posted this game on our Edmodo page and I tried it for the first time last week.  Similar to “Chutes and Ladders,” students move up the board from 1 to 100, climbing ladders or falling down “snakes” if they land on those squares.  Since we are working on solving equations right now, students moved forward whatever their answers were (ie. x=3 means you move forward 3 squares, x= -2 means you move backwards 2).

* Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner For spiraling review of previous material, we do 10 multiple choice questions every other week.  Sometimes I will have kids turn in their work, but first write their name an’d their 10 answers on a small piece of paper.  They fold these in half and half again and then drop them in a bowl.  I work the review problems and then reach in the bowl and draw out a slip of paper.  If that person got the correct answer they get a piece of candy.  If they miss it I throw their slip back in for another chance.  Kids stay attentive while reviewing the material – it never ceases to amaze me how motivating a jolly rancher can be for 8th graders!

Bingo – This one takes very little time to set up – students draw a 5×5 bingo grid on a piece of notebook paper and mark a free space in the center.  I project 24 answers and they fill in their grids with the answers wherever they want.  It’s easy to find 24 problems from the text or from a pizzazz sheet.  Once they have finished filling in their grids, I give them the first problem.  They solve it and mark the square on their board.  If students are struggling, I will have them help me work the problem, but if not, we just move on to the next question until someone yells “Bingo!” with five in a row (or four corners).

* White Boards – I have a class set of dry erase boards and the kids all have dry erase markers, so we use the boards quite a bit (cheap tissues work well for erasers!).  Sometimes I’ll write a problem on the board and give them a short amount of time to work the problem and when I say, “Reveal” they hold their boards up.  I have students sit in rows for this one and they earn a point for each person in the row with the correct answer.  Sometimes we have relay races where the last person in the row starts with writing the problem, then passes the board up to the next person in the row who does the next step, and so forth, until they get an answer.  Last person checks the answer to make sure they are right.  As long as they do not reveal they can rework the problem, but if the checker says it’s right they are committed.  If they miss it, they are out.  First team with right answer wins the round.

Those are some of my favorite ways to practice Algebra.  Now on to Sub Plans!

Sub Plans:

I’m always amazed when I hear a parent state, “Oh I was never any good at math – she gets it from me.”  Seriously?  Why is it parents never say, “Oh, I was never any good at Reading”?  It just bothers me that it’s acceptable to not be good at math, but I guess that’s for another post.  It does seem to be exceedingly difficult to find a good Algebra sub – we have two retired math teachers who are just wonderful (you can leave full-fledged lessons) but other than that, you are likely to have a warm body with no ascertainable math skills.

So, what you really need is a math classroom that can run itself for the most part, with the sub really just overseeing this smooth operation.  I have an attendance person in each class who takes care of attendance every day, keeping track of who is out and gathering makeup materials for them as we go.  I leave this person’s name with the sub (as well as a backup) and really, these are my go-to people.  They take care of posting homework on Edmodo, gathering makeup material, handing out and collecting manipulatives, working the document camera and the projector.  We were in groups quite a bit in class, so I typically try to leave something that lends itself to group work so students can easily help each other.

Last year we got a book of these great FACEing Math sheets and these are perfect for a sub day.  There are preset problems, or you can create your own.  Below is an example – this one practices solving absolute value equations.  Students choose either A or B for their answer and then draw/color the appropriate answer.  When done they have an image you can easily check for correctness (or even the sub can check them!).


About merryfwilliams

High school math teacher and mom of 3 amazing kids. I have a high maintenance husky and am adding a knitting obsession to the juggling routine. @merryfwilliams on Twitter
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4 Responses to Ways to Practice & Sub Plans

  1. I have never even thought about using this as a sub activity. That is a great idea!!!!

  2. lzlomek says:

    I love FACEing Math! Easy to keep on hand for emergency plans. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Andy Burton says:

    My kids love white boards too! I’m always surprised that they will do 1,000 problems on them. Some days we even write on the desks… how crazy!

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