I have taught 5th grade for 3 years and the biggest problem my team and I had in math was that our students didn't know all of their multiplication and division facts. This made more complex math impossible for some and very difficult for many. My grade level team was very collaborative and in an attempt to fix this math problem we decided to work together and create a competition that would help motivate students to master their math facts. This is what we came up with: every Friday we end our math time 30 minutes early to do an all 5th grade math facts competition; we call it "Math Monkey."
First, we line up nearly 100 fifth graders in two rows, separating them by teacher, gender, birthdays, or any other random grouping we decide on. This helps guarantee that students face different competitors each week. The person beside each student is their competitor, and whomever answers first is the winner. Before the elimination rounds starts, we always have a practice round where every student has a chance to see a multiplication or division flashcard to prepare themselves for the competition. After the practice round, we move to the elimination rounds. Whomever correctly answers the question first stays in the competition and goes to the back of the line, and the other student is eliminated and sits down and cheers on their class. This continues on and we celebrate the "Sweet Sixteen," the "Great Eight," the "Final Four," and the "Last Two."
It always grows very tense once students narrow down to the final few. Students sit on the edge of their seats in anticipation of who will win and bring glory to their class! The final two have to answer three math facts correctly in order to win. Once the winner is announced, the crowd erupts WILDLY! The winner is awarded a small trophy (a stuffed-animal monkey) to place on their desk for the entire week until the next competition.
I wish I could express how S-E-R-I-O-U-S these students take it. I always saw students walking home with their math flashcards in hand practicing. Students even borrowed my flashcards at lunch and recess to get ready for the big day. This event caught on like wild fire at our school, and now the fourth grade team and first grade team do it too! The first graders had 1st lunch, and would come watch the 5th graders compete. One first grader mastered his addition facts and even went on to multiplication 0-2's.
So you can see that this activity can easily be adapted for all grade levels. Kinder can do a number recognition competition while first graders can tackle addition facts. Second graders can work on subtraction facts, and third and fourth can work on multiplication and even add in some divisions towards the end of the year. Fifth is challenged with both multiplication and division facts up to 12. This can even be done for Language Arts with sight words and root words.
This year I am at a new school, so I am changing the competition from Math Monkey to Math Ruler. I got these cute crowns from Oriental Trading Company for the Math King or Math Queen to wear as a symbol of their great achievement.
I can't wait to see this new group of students light up with the thrill of competition. Thanks so much for letting me share this weekly activity that makes learning both educational challenging and exciting.