Saturday, December 4, 2010

Math Game: Risk Your Beginning Algebra Skills

I had a blast on Thursday playing the game show host for our game of ...  Risk Your Beginning Algebra Skills1. I showed my students the fabulous prizes they could win (Blink, pentominoes, or 3 burnable cds), and used my announcer voice instead of my Math Mama voice.

I'm giving an early final on Tuesday so they can have two chances (the official final exam period is the next week). We had to start reviewing this week, which is usually sort of boring for me. This totally changed it for me, though I can't guarantee it was a better review for them. I do think the high energy keeps people going.

Most of the problems featured in the game came from their practice finals, and they were supposed to do all of the problems on their practice final before coming to class on Thursday. But of course most of them hadn't. We have a high school housed at our college called Middle College High School, and I have a number of high school students in two of my three classes. They have a class called Early College Seminar, where they get help with their homework. So they had all done their practice finals. And the winners of the game in the first two classes were all MCHS students.

I didn't want to just have one of the students who always does well be the winner, so I got prizes for two winners. One for the high score, and one for the 'most improved'. For that, I gave each person a 'multiplier' to multiply their final score by. I got the multiplier by taking 100 divided by their grade so far (a number under 100). The best students multiplied by 1. People who haven't done their retakes had multipliers anywhere from 1.4 to 8.

In the fist class, they both chose Blink. In the second, they both wanted pentominoes. In the third class, a boyfriend and girlfriend both won, so they got Blink and pentominoes.

Here's the gamesheet2:

You can risk anywhere from 0 to 100 points on the first question. Add the points to your total if you're right and subtract them if you're wrong. Now you can risk anything up to your new total on the next question. Before solving each problem I reminded people to make sure they had risked their points. I think the winners were the big betters, rather than the best math students. If you double your score on every right answer, 8 right gets you to almost 20,000.

I'll try this at the beginning of next semester for reviewing some of the stuff I think they should already know.

1I blogged a few weeks ago about how this game was used for a lecture on pi.
2The .doc file is here:


  1. I love this!! I cannot find out how to email you. Please send me the doc file

    Also - can you still read Three Standard Deviations to the left?

  2. Great, fun review/formative asessment.

    I used to give tests where students had to allot the points, with a min and a max on each problem, make it add to 100. Eventually stopped because they occasionally felt cheated. But the information about their confidence levl was priceless. And it was a great tool for the goal of know what you know and know what you don't. Your Risk feels like it makes it like fair game again!

  3. @Ricochet, In the 'about me' thingie on the right, you'll see my email is listed as mathanthologyeditor on gmail. I'll send you the file now. (And I see that the blog you mention is now open only to invited participants. I can't get in either.)

    @John, Why did they feel cheated? (I explained a variation in my grading two weeks ago, and got an email with "How is this fair?" I had said I'd grade by the syllabus or by a new plan, using whichever was better for each student. My reply: "How is fairness an issue here?")

  4. Hi Sue, this is a fun game. I recommend giving kids some "free points" after either each question or at some spots in the game, because inevitably some kids will bet the maximum or near the maximum, fail, then care a lot less about what comes later since they have few points left to play with -- and kids who max bet and fail once are instantly zero'd out.

    Cool idea!

    1. I played a version of this with my kids today - thanks for sharing the idea (I'll have to email you for the gameboard). I threw in a few random things (If you are not wearing socks add x points! If you are wearing red, subtract x points! Add x points for every sibling!) just to keep them from getting too fixed on the competitive aspect of the game... and to keep things a little lighter since it's late June and we are still in school.


    2. Hi Rosie, I'm glad you had the game sheet. I see blogspot has lost it somehow. I'll have to fix all the images in my posts after the crowd-funding campaign settles down.

  5. Is there a way to get the gameboard mentioned or whatever was attached? I only see a circle with a line through it. Thanks!

  6. I've fixed the post. Blogger took out all my illustrations a while back, and I'm fixing things one by one.

  7. And you're welcome to email me if you'd like this as .doc or .pdf.


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