X’s, Y’s, Z’s? What do those have to do with math?!
If you put yourself in the shoes of your sixth grade students, you might be wondering why in the world letters are suddenly appearing in Math class. In fact, algebraic expressions might seem like a whole new language to you.
So to ease students into the evaluating expressions, which include variables, I introduce them to my Evaluating Expressions Number Cube games.
These quick, competitive games are designed to introduce students to the concept of replacing a variable with a value, and then evaluating the expression. Instead of traditional x, y, or z variables, I use small pictures, like tiny footballs, pumpkins, or beach balls. There are 9 seasonal varieties, each with a different theme.
As you can see from the screenshot above, students roll number cubes or dice, and they replace the variable with the value that they rolled. After evaluating their expressions, the student with the greatest value wins that round. The player who wins the most rounds at the end of the game is the champion.
You can download a free copy of the September football version right here, as a thank-you for checking out my blog!
I always walk my students through a few sample rounds, so they understand the concept of replacing variables with the values they rolled. I have found that my students also need a reminder of their Dear Old Aunt Sally (PEMDAS, Order of Operations).
Oftentimes students also need reminders about ways of showing multiplication, beyond the traditional x symbol, which we move away from in 6th grade, to avoid confusion between the variable x and the multiplication symbol x.
I also use this game as an opportunity to introduce my students to writing division problems as fractions. Very few of my students have seen division problems written this way, but by playing the game several times throughout the year, they are able to recognize this new form, which they will see in middle school and beyond.
There is both a front and a back to the game, but not all pairs of students will make it to the back each time. And that’s ok. We’re giving students the opportunity to play a game and be exposed to a fundamental algebraic concept, so any practice is better than no practice!
The monthly themes are as follows:
- September – Football
- October – Pumpkins
- November – Turkeys
- December – Snowmen
- January – New Years
- February – Candy Hearts
- March – Shamrocks
- April – Easter Eggs
- May – Beach Balls
If you’re looking for a quick, easy way to create random groups for games or cooperative work, check out my post about the Team Maker website.
If you have other fun ways of introducing students to evaluating algebraic expressions beyond a traditional worksheet, let me know in the comments 🙂