Math on the Move

While I was visiting my favorite fourth graders yesterday (You know who you are!), I saw that they were doing a very cool math activity that required thinking AND moving! It was so cool and the kids were so excited about it, I just had to share this neat activity that their teachers had planned for them!  Unfortunately, their teacher was away at a conference, so I wasn’t able to get the name of the activity. So I have dubbed this one, “Math on the Move.” You can call it what you like. 🙂

Needed Supplies: pencils, paper, markers, construction paper, and a math word or short phrase (10-15 letters long). Optional supplies: student clipboards, pre-made page with fill-in-the-blanks for the word or phrase you choose.

Fold the construction paper in half.


Planning and Set-Up: First, fold the pieces of construction paper in half width-wise (hamburger style). You should have one piece of paper for every letter in your math word or phrase.

Secondly, think of some math problems that are related to the current unit or standard of study (they were studying division). You should have one problem for every piece of construction paper. Therefore, if your word/phrase is 12 letters in length, you should have 12 pieces of paper and 12 math problems.

Write the math questions on the inside of the folded construction paper.

Next, write one of the problems on the inside of construction paper 1. Write that answer (BIG and clearly so it can be seen from across the room) on the front of construction paper 2. Flip to the inside of paper 2 and write a second problem. Write the answer for the second problem on construction paper 3, and so on. This should eventually create a chain of problems and answers.

Write the answers clearly on the outside flap of the folded construction paper.

Last, make sure that one letter from your math word or phrase is written visibly on each piece of construction paper. (I wrote the letters in the lower right-hand corner.) Then tape the construction papers around the classroom OUT OF ORDER. (If you put them in order around the room, students will just be floating in a monotonous, circular motion and they’ll be tempted to look ahead at the answer without solving it on their own.) You can tape the papers to walls, doors, desks, light switches, cupboards, whiteboards, bulletin boards, etc. Put them in fun, creative places!

Lesson Instructions: Tell the students that they are going to be solving a mystery math word (or phrase) in class. However, in order to solve the mystery, they have to move around the room and solve various math problems.

Make sure that the paper is visible and can be reached by all students as they move around the classroom.

When they solve a problem, they must look for the answer on another piece of construction paper. When they see the answer, they can write down the mystery letter that is on that paper, and then flip up the top half to find the next, new problem! Once they have solved all the problems, they should be very close to figuring out the mystery math word.

Why this lesson is GREAT: This lesson requires mobility and creative thinking. Students can collaborate to find answers and the teacher can be mobile to help students who may be stumped on a specific problem. The lesson is student-centered, appropriate for any age, and geared toward independent use of resources!


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