Week 1–Math Shakers

Are you tired of dice rolling everywhere when your students are playing a game?  Try using “

math shakers”.  You can purchase the classroom math shakers that you see pictured, or you can purchase medicine pill containers sold at all pharmacy locations or online.  Make sure you buy the “extra-wide” containers so the dice will roll.  You can take off the letters on the outside with nail polish remover.  On either shaker, students can use dry-erase markers to write the numbers they roll on the outside of the container.

These are perfect to use when asking students to generate their own numbers for computation.  Instead of using worksheets, have students shake their shakers to come up with the numbers to use. There are so many uses and games you can do with math shakers.  For easy, fun activities, visit one of my favorite sites, Box Cars and One-Eyed Jacks and look for the book Math Shakers, by Jane Felling.

Math ShakersMath Shakers

Week 2–What Is a Mathematician?

My favorite first science lesson of the year was asking my students to draw and describe a scientist.  Usually their pictures represented an older male with gray curly hair and glasses.  Most had pictures of him wearing a lab coat and sitting at table with colorful chemicals in containers.  After this lesson I had my students complete a science lab.  We would then discuss how they were scientists during this lab and what skills and habits did they use during this time.  Throughout the year we added to our chart, “What Is a Scientist?”.

During my guided math seminar, I share this activity and ask teachers to do a similar activity with their students, but instead ask students, “What is a Mathematician?”.  My friend and colleague, Emily Kappel, did this activity with her fourth-grade students this year.  I put the recording sheet, What is a Mathematician?, she created in the teacher resources page for you to use.  Enjoy this response from one of her students.  I would love to hear from you if you try this activity in your classroom!  Please post your students’ thoughts on my Facebook page, Making Math Make Sense.

ur family is growing.

Week 3–Addition Tic-Tac-Toe

I love playing math games with kids!  This game is super easy to play with your students, requires very few materials, and your students will ask if they can keep playing!

Materials Needed for Partners:

  • Addition Tic-Tac-Toe gameboard
  • 2-color counters or 2 different colored Unifix cubes (about 20 altogether)
  • 2 clear chips (aka Bingo chips)


  1. Partner 1 places the 2 clear chips over two addends at the bottom of the board.
  2. Partner 1 adds the two numbers together and uses her color counter to place over the sum on the gameboard.
  3. Partner 2 can move ONLY 1 of the clear chips at the bottom to create a new addition problem.
  4. Partner 2 adds the two numbers together and uses his color counter to place over the sum on the gameboard.
  5. Partner 1 continues by moving ONLY 1 clear chip to create a new addition problem and cover over the sum.
  6. Play continues until one person gets 3 of their color counter in a row either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.

Special notes:

  • a student can place both clear chips over the same addend; the next player can still only move 1 of the chips to create the new problem
  • if 3 in a row is too easy for your students, increase the winner to 4 in a row, 5 in a row, and so on
  • allow students who still aren’t fluent with their facts to use an addition table to make sure they get the correct sum