It’s testing season once again – the time of year when teachers around the country begin to feel more and more like the purple minion from Despicable Me 2. Sometimes, you can’t help but feel the stress of hoping your students have retained all the information you’ve worked so hard to embed in their memories the past few months.
In an attempt to combat the stress of state assessments, I created an event for my students to compete in as a final review before the big day(s). Our eighth grade algebra students partner with students from a neighboring middle school to compete in our Amazing Race Lock-in. The event is always held the Friday night before testing and is modeled after the Amazing Race television show, which features teams racing across the world in effort to win $1,000,000. Our students compete for a geeky math trophy that stays at the winning school for the next school year and for gift cards for the winning team. The event can last as long as you’re comfortable supervising students (this year’s event will be from 6pm-12am for us). Preparation for the event includes creating clues for your students. There are a few categories to consider:
Route Info– These clues lead students to a location on your campus.
Road Block – These contain the problems I want students to work on. Teams receive these when they enter a room. I put 3 problems on each card. For those of you using Discovery Education’s Math Techbook, try putting the location of your favorite Coach and Play problems or Technology Enhanced Items (we’re trying to place more emphasis here) for students to revisit. For students with mobile devices, you may even create QR codes to link students to the desired problems. I also place previous algebra students (who volunteer with me for volunteer hours) in each of the roadblock rooms to assist struggling teams if they can’t figure out a problem (after giving them an allotted amount of time to work on it). For extra fun, I add a Minute-to-Win-It challenge after every roadblock before teams can get their next clue.
Detour– This is your chance to come up with some crazy challenges for your students to do. Each detour needs to have two (or more) choices. I usually place them after every three roadblocks to give students a break from math problems. Application problems, like this one from Discovery Education’s Math Techbook, work well here. Or send students to one of Math Techbook’s interactives, like Zombie Luau, and tell them they have to reach a given high score or successfully complete a given number of tasks to continue in the race.
Our racecourse contains 12 roadblocks, 4 detours and 16 route info clues. Our clues are on cardstock, but they could also be created on the computer if you have technology-enhanced-items you’d like your students to work through. The course is set up in a circle, with teams in every room initially, so that everyone competes and no one is waiting for their turn to start the course. I announce over the intercom that the race has begun and teams quickly open their first clue (all of the clues are stuffed into envelopes just like on the race) and get to work. Completion of our course takes around 2.5 – 3 hours.
The students have a blast and get really competitive. Our teams generally wear matching outfits and put on face paint and put the black marks under their eyes that you see football players wear. The valuable part of the event is that students have the opportunity to practice problems under pressure. Before the event, I tell them to keep track of what kind of mistakes they make when pressured and to take that knowledge into account when taking the state assessment. For many of them, the awareness has helped them catch the simple errors we all see them make during the course of the year. Overall, the competition is a great way to build in a last minute review that your students will love!