ADD ‘EM UP! One of my favorite review activities

Update: October 2016.  I used this activity for the first time this school year.  I always remember I like it, but I always forget how much I love it.   I love it because it leads to all students engaged….and engaged for a long time.  They start talking to each other and helping each other naturally.  It is great.  Here is my most current one I used to review Evaluating Functions (page 2 – this one has lots of common errors students make) & Composition of functions (page 1 & 3). Click for word-doc -> add-em-up-evaluating-functions-review  Read below for directions on this activity.  Enjoy. 

UPDATE:  The (amazing) Sarah Carter has a ton of ‘Add Em Up’ card sets you can download at her site Math=Love.  Check them out HERE!


Today I did one of my favorite review activities in class.  My good friend Sonja Krasean, who I co-planned with at my previous school introduced me to this activity.  I have several review activities I love (speed dating is one), but this one is great if the mathematics problems you are reviewing have a one number solution.   I call this activity ‘Add ’em up’.  Kate Nowak has a similar version of this activity on her blog.  The reason I LOVE this activity is because without too much effort on my part my groups looked like this & at the end of the hour students could clearly articulate what they had learned:12

If you read my post about the 100#’s Task I use at the start of the year (you got to use this – it’s good0, you would know my goal every day in class is for my students to be talking about math.  Many days this will be in groups.  I do lots of things to get students to work together, but the choice of the task or activity is at the top.  Today all, yes all, of my groups looked like this for 30+ minutes.  Students were focused.  Students were helping their peers.  Students found and fixed their own errors.  I was not the focus, the math was.19

Here is how the task works:

  • This task works with math problems that have a one number solution.  Today we were solving equations with logarithms.
  • Put students in groups of 4.  4 is important.  If there is less than 4, the group will have to do extra work.  If I have a group of 3, I make it one of my stronger groups.  I also sometimes make a group of 5 and pair 2 students to work as one.
  • Give students a sheet of chart paper.  Have them draw a circle in the middle and divide the paper into 4 sections (one for each student).  Note, students will be writing on this sheet all at the same time so the sheet of paper needs to be large enough to accommodate this.  If you are lucky enough to have larger white boards, use those.
  • Give students different color markers (4 different colors per group)
  • Tell students how this activity will work.  Each group will get 4 cards with 4 different problems to solve (one each).  Each student will solve their problem in on their section of the poster paper.  When students finish solving the 4 problems, the need to add the 4 solutions together and the sum of their solutions should be equal to the number I write in the circle in the middle of their ch6art paper.  Tell students they need to work together.
  • Hand out a set of cards with 4 different problems of the same level of difficulty.  Each student should take one card and write the in their section and work on solving it.
  • While students begin solving I go around and write the first sum in the middle of the circle.
  • Here are the cards I used today with my students.  Add em up Logarithm Review I had 2 sets of problems for students to solve.  Students began with the yellow cards (sum=14.5016) and after they solved them, I gave them a second set of cards to solve (this time green with a sum of 75).  Depending on the difficulty of the problems, you can complete between 2 t0 5 sets of problems per 55 minute class period.  Today my students spent 30 minutes on 2 sets.
  • While students are working I am walking around asking advancing questions or encouraging students to support their group members.
  • What is great about this activity is students do not know which problem is incorrect if the sum of the 4 solutions does not match the number in the center of the circle.  They then have to go and find their mistakes.
  • The problems I selected today were great, because every group had at least 1 mistake (and most had many) they had to go find, fix and learn from.  All students (high and low) made mistakes.  I felt like this was a safe activity for all level’s of students.
  • I had students put both problems on the same sheet of paper.  I had them label their quadrants with the ‘yellow’ problem and the ‘green’ problem.  You could have students flip the sheet over and do the 2nd problem on the back or use different colors or…
  • A couple of times I had students rotate and work on a new quadrant.  When I checked solutions, I would ask students who solved different problems a question about the solution to one of their group members problems to hold everyone accountable for all the problems on the sheet.
  • Here are a couple of examples of what the student work looked like.181716I love all the places where students crossed things out and started over.
  • I highly recommend this activity for you.  I had used it in the past few years, but not this school year yet.  I knew I loved it, but I had forgotten how much.
  • This task does not take too much prep.  I only wrote 8 problems and only made 8 photo copies total for the problems on cardstock.  I used paper from the a big roll of paper people use to cover bulletin boards.

ENJOY.  If you use the task, tweet me @saravdwerf or email me at saravdwPD@gmail.com or comment below and tell me how it went.

Sara VanDerWerf

I am Sara Van Der Werf, a 24-year mathematics teacher in Minneapolis Public Schools. I have taught math in grades 7-12 as well as spent several years leading mathematics at the district office. I currently teach Advanced Algebra at South High School and I'm also the current President of the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM). I am passionate about encouraging and connecting with mathematics teachers. I'd love to connect via twitter.  Join the community.  Tweet me @saravdwerf.

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