Order of Operations Relay Race

This is an activity that my students have always enjoyed so I thought I’d post the idea here. It’s perfect for the last fifteen or twenty minutes of class. (It takes up an unnecessary amount of printouts to make this into an actual funsheet):

1) Split the class into 5 or 6 teams. This actually works best if your desks are in long rows or in circles. For the rest of the directions, let’s assume the students are in rows.

2) Make a long-ish order of operations problem, preferably one with more than six or seven steps. You’ll need to write this same problem onto 5 sheets of notebook paper (or however many teams you have).

3) Each student is allowed to complete only ONE step. To keep track, it’s best if students use colored pencils.

4) When the student finishes his/her step, he passes the paper back (the last person in the row has to run up and give the paper back to the first student) until the problem is completed.

5) The first team to finish wins … almost. The teams that aren’t done must turn the paper over while you check the answer. If it’s incorrect, write the work on the board. Once the error is found by the students, the remaining teams can resume their problem solving until a team comes up with the right answer.

For my below average classes, each student was allowed to help the student behind them. This takes some of the burden off any student who isn’t confident with the topic.

The first run-through takes a few minutes and has a bit of confusion, but the second time around is a lot more fun for the students. Make sure you have 3 or 4 problems ready to go. Oh, and to keep it fair, if the first person started the problem in the first race, make sure to let the second person start the problem in the second race, and so on. Also, a jolly rancher prize for the winning team tends to make the students work a bit more carefully.

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