Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mathcraft: A New Approach to Fifth Grade Math Review

Today we had a blast in math class! It's not every day that I get to say that, but today it's the truth. I generated a real buzz in my classroom when the children noticed a new math packet on my desk. If you teach, you must be asking yourself, "How do you get kids excited about a math packet?" Here's the secret. Turn it into a video game. That's right, a video game! In deference to MineCraft, a popular video game my students play that's focused on creativity and building, I changed the heading of a cumulative math review sheet to read "MATHCRAFT". Then I added phrasing and graphics at the end of each section of the review packet to indicate that students had "defeated that level" once they got all the problems in the section correct. It looked like this:

These seemingly minor tweaks really had a huge impact on the level of motivation my students had for completing this assignment. Once I explained the directions and handed out the papers, they were begging me to let them get started on the assignment. (That is NOT an exaggeration.) 

This is what I told them. The packet was divided into four "levels". As a student completed all the problems in a section, he or she had to bring it to an adult to have the work checked. If any problems were wrong, the student had to go back and correct their work before bringing it back to be checked again. No student could advance to the next level in the packet until all the work in one level was correct. To make it even more interesting, the first four students who finished all four levels of the worksheet were allowed to play Connect Four. Everybody who finished ended up being rewarded with computer time on First in Math or time to read independently, an amazingly surprising motivator with this group.

Once they started working, the difference in my students' focus and concentration was amazing. Children who typically throw in the towel without even trying, were actually asking clarifying questions, consulting reference sources, and applying problem-solving strategies. It was a big payout for a small amount of effort on my part. Another benefit for me was that I could see where students were still "stuck" on the first quarter content we've covered. I now have a few days before marks close to go back and remediate (AGAIN) as needed.

The following is a list of fifth grade PA State Academic Standards for mathematics that are addressed in the packet. It is everything the School District of Philadelphia required us to cover this quarter. If you are interested in using this packet in your classroom, you can find it in my TpT store for just $2.00. Check back to my store throughout the year for more video game inspired materials. I know I'll be creating them, because my students made me promise we would do more work like this in the future.


Apply place value concepts to show an understanding of multi-digit whole numbers.

Apply place value concepts to show an understanding of operations and rounding as they pertain to whole numbers and decimals.

Apply place value concepts to show an understanding of operations and rounding as they pertain to whole numbers and decimals.

Extend an understanding of operations with whole numbers to perform operations including decimals.

Represent and solve problems involving the four operations.

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