This has become one of our favorite quick activities in my Algebra 1 classes this year–and credit for this one goes out to my resident once again.

Remember at birthday parties, where you would whisper something to the person next to you, and then they would whisper it, and so on? And it changed from “Lesley has a cute shirt with rainbows” into something totally inappropriate.

Kinda like that.

The materials are super simple–get a bunch of paper (maybe from your enormous stack of leftover mental math?) and cut it into fourths. Then get problems, cut on to slips of paper.

You could cycle one problem through the whole group (I’ve done similar before with one whiteboard and called it a drill), but we prefer to have all the students working, so one problem per student will do.

- 1. Students in groups of 4
- Each student gets 4 blank slips of paper and labels them ABCD
- Each group gets four slips of paper, numbered 1-4.
- Each student picks up a problem, does it [distributes 2(3x-5)] and then passes it to the next person. They hold on to the original problem.
- Pass once to the right, factor out the common factor (or a different step), put the piece you were given on the bottom and pass it on with a new top.
- Repeat a total of four times, until you get your original problem back.
- Have the group check how well they did keeping their problem the same.

We’ll be doing it with multiplying binomials/factoring quadratics, and we also tried it with translating between words and algebra. It fits a lot of places and can be a quick single round activity or something a little longer–lots of fun and a new favorite. I highly recommend you try it out!

What’s your favorite quick practice structure?

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I’ve played this as a party game. I think we called it Telephone Pictionary. Each person writes a phrase. The next person draws a picture of that phrase. The next person looks at the picture and writes a phrase to describe it. And, the process continues until you get your original paper back. The results are usually quite hilarious! But, I’d never have thought of doing it with math. How awesome! Thanks for sharing!