Category Archives: #game

Taboo – Quadratic Functions

The Overview

Improve student literacy by focusing in on the math terms surrounding quadratic functions, and then play Taboo using those terms.


The Description

Warning:  Your students will have a lot of fun with this.

Taboo is a game where you try to get your team members to say the word on your card, but there are a list of restricted words that you cannot use in your descriptions.

I read Fawn Nygun’s Taboo activity and I wanted to do it with my class.  I love how she implemented it by having her students create the cards.  But I decided to control the words in Taboo by creating the cards myself.  This allowed me to scaffold it by first focusing on improving student literacy on the words that I had put into the game.

To scaffold the words that were going into Taboo I decided to use Frayer Models.  I created the packet “My book of Frayer Models” and we did two each day for a week.  It was a warmup activity that they did when they first walked into class, probably took 20 to 30 minutes each day.  Below is an example of one of the pages of a students Frayer Model book.  I would give students the page number where the word could be found in their textbook, and I had them do the model themselves while I did the routines of checking off homework and taking role.


After I was done checking homework, taking role, I would randomly call on students and get my Frayer Model completed on the whiteboard.  Lastly for each Frayer Model, I would put the word on the whiteboard and ask students for key words that describe it.   This portion of the lesson acted as my substitute for when Fawn’s students wrote out their own taboo cards.  We were essentially writing out a Taboo card as a class, and it allowed me to see what words the students deemed important.

After we finished their book of Frayer Models – It was time for Taboo!

The taboo cards focus on quadratic functions.  I didn’t make them all related to quadratic functions in order to give students the illusion that the game was covering the entire book.  The restricted words were choosen to leave the door open for good mathematical descriptions and not make the game too difficult.  Thus for the word “parabola” I didn’t include “quadratic” as a restricted word.    For me, the restricted words were really meant to try and take away the cheap clues, rather than the good mathematical clues – like for instance with the card “Domain” I restricted “Range” but I did not restrict “x” or “value”.

The rules for Taboo were basically the same as Fawn’s, but here they are:

  1. Class is divided into 2 teams, Team X and Team Y.
  2. Team X goes first: two people from Team X come up to front.
  3. Skipping a word is not allowed.
  4. Team has 1 minute to get as many right as possible.
  5. No hand gestures.

The Keynote slides attached below have a description of how I explained the Taboo game to the students.

For the final round, I was describing each card and giving points to the team that could guess it first.

The Advice:

– I would let one student volunteer to come up and I would randomly select a second student to join them.  I had students who never volunteer for anything, volunteering for this.

– Ultimately if the students knew the goal of Taboo was to work vocabulary of quadratics, then they could just list off all those key words every round.  So it’s important to do the following two things in order to give the students the illusion that any term in the book is possible.

  1. Do not tell the students that they are going to use the terms from the Frayer Models to play Taboo.  Even though every term from the Frayer Models are in the game, the students don’t need to know that.  I even collected the Frayer Models to day before playing Taboo.
  2. Throw in some math terms that do not have to do with quadratics.

– Students liked to say things like “the opposite of” – so if you have a card for maximum, make sure minimum is a restricted word.

– Use the restricted words to keep students from being able to use a non-math description.

– Have your TA cutout the Taboo cards and glue them to playing cards.

The Results:

A high level of engagement.  Definitely an animated class and everyone enjoyed the activity.  Students were shouting out a lot of great vocabulary, and I felt good that the Frayer Models had given them improved math literacy.

The Goods:


QuadraticTabooCards  (There are only enough cards here for 2 or 3 one minute rounds if you have two teams)


Solve / Crumble / Toss

A colleague of mine told me about this activity, and it has been a lot of fun for the class.

The Description

The basics are that the students are in pairs and do one problem on a whiteboard.  I check all their answers.  Then they crumble that problem up and throw it across the room. When I say stop, they all stop throwing, and pick up a new problem.  They uncrumble their new problem, do it on the whiteboard, and the process starts over again.

Each problem has a number, and it’s important that each group puts the number of the problem on the whiteboard, so I can know which problem they did when they hold up their whiteboards.  I have the answer key in front of me so I can quickly check if they are right or wrong.

I generally use about 8 different problems.  There is a chance that students will pick up a problem they have already done, so if that happens, I just tell them to pick up a new one.  At the end of the activity I like to give them a worksheet that has all of the problems from the activity on it.

I use colored paper to make sure that only the problems are getting thrown.  I use two colors, and make one color for easier problems, and the other color for more challenging problems.

The Advice

– I let the student throw paper back and forth, which gets hectic, but they love it.  If you want a more controlled scenario, only allow them one throw.

– Make it clear – they must stop throwing exactly when you say “Stop”, and cannot throw until you say “Throw”.

– Use colored paper, and make sure no white paper is thrown.

– A full sheet of paper can be thrown to hard, so be sure to use a half sheet for each problem.  Some students may try to crumble a couple of problems together to make a larger ball – big time no no.

– I arrange the desks so that half of the class is facing the other half of the class.  Let the students know the back row is the safest place.

– The problems can be hard to read when crumbled a lot, so use a large font.

The Goods

Here is the one I did for a review on Inequalities in algebra 1.



The Update 1

– Yesterday (at the advice of a colleague) at the end of class I stood in front of the recycle bin and told the students to all throw their papers at me.  It has two great benefits:  The students love it.  It makes cleanup easier because all the paper ends up in the same general area.

– I like to handout fresh problems (meaning problems on paper that has not been crumbled) for the first round of each class because the problems get harder to read the more the paper is crumbled.  It also allows me to intentally differentiate by ensuring that high achieving students get the more difficult problems.


The Description

Bracketology is a review game based on the NCAA basketball tournanment.  Basically you pick problems, setup the bracket, and the goal of the game is to figure out which is the most difficult problem.   You setup the intial matches, and then students use whiteboards to vote for the most difficult problem.  Then they work the losing problem on a piece of paper.  Here’s how it works:

– Intially pick 4 problems from the first part of a chapter, and then 4 problems from the second part of a chapter.  Then rank them from #1-4 based on how difficult you think the problems are.  The #1 seed should be the problem you consider most difficult of the group, the 4th seed should be the easiest.

– Draw the bracket on the whiteboard, the highest seed should play the lowest seed, so put #1 vs #4 and #2 vs #3.

– Have students in groups of two.  Each group gets one whiteboard, and each student needs their own piece of paper.

– Pick a match and have each group use their whiteboard to vote for the problem they think is the most difficult.

– The winning problem is the one that is voted the most difficult.  Take that problem and draw it into the next round.  All the students should work on the losing problem.

– When you finally get to a champion problem, offer extra credit to any student who can take down the champion.

The Advice

– I would write on the whiteboard the two basic steps that the students are doing:
1. Vote for most difficult problem.
2. Work on the losing problem.

– That above advice is key because students will get confused intially about which problem they should be working on.

– I have two whiteboards in my room.  I use on of them for the bracket, and then I work the problems on the other.

The Goods

I do not use any handouts with this game.  Students take out their own piece of paper and I write the problems all on the whiteboard.



These are a listing of hastags that I use to catagorize my lessons plans.  Each catagory represents a different style lesson plan.  My instructional goal is typically to make sure that I use each hashtag at least once a month.  The goal of this blog is to share all the lesson plans that I use under each hashtag.

My detailed lesson plans are my Keynote slides.  But along with those, I make a quick, calendar-style overview to me a general idea of what I am doing.  It’s on this calender where I place the hashtags at the bottom of each day.  This allows me  to quickly look back at what I have been doing, and know whether of not I am differentiating.  For example, here is two weeks worth of my lesson plans in geometry.  Notice that I can quickly see whether or not I have differentiated my instruction, without having to analyze each specific lesson plan.  The hashtags allow me to get a quick sense of what I have been doing, and what I have not been doing.


*Notes –

-The term “perplexity” is being used as described by Dan Meyer here