Math Game: Build a Polygon

As we get closer to Christmas, things can get a little stale in the classroom. Teachers are tired, students are less tolerant of each other, and everyone has at least one eye aimed at the coming break. Many teachers look to spice things up a bit. They might show a movie, design a STEAM challenge, or set aside time for a holiday craft.

For some awesome ideas, check out John Spencer’s article 10 Creative Alternatives to Showing a Movie Before Break. Or just look at his graphic:

If you like your fun activities a little more closely aligned with the standards, you can have students play a math game. The game described below, “Build a Polygon,” comes from Education.com.  I like it because it gives students the opportunity to practice precise measurement, requires them to accurately read a ruler, introduces concepts of polygons, involves problem-solving, and provides practice in finding the perimeters of shapes. It’s also easy to play, easy to set up, and doesn’t require you to go out and buy stuff. It’s perfect for second through sixth-grade classrooms.

Game: Build a Polygon

polygon

This geometry  game will make your child a master of the polygon! He’ll compete against other players by measuring and drawing out shapes with playing cards determining the length of each line. Careful though, the measurements of lines will need to connect in order to close a polygon. If the card drawn doesn’t give the number he needs to finish his shape, start the line out or draw the line in another direction and wait to turn the next card. Whoever completes the most polygons wins!

What You Need:

  • Playing cards
  • Metric ruler
  • Pencils
  • Paper

What You Do:

  1. Announce the point system to all of the players as follows: Face cards= Wild (players can assign whatever value to the card that they want), Aces =1.
  2. Shuffle the cards and place them face down in the center of the table. Each player needs a pencil, ruler and a piece of paper.
  3. When his turn comes, each player should draw one card and use the value of their card to draw a line in centimeters.
  4. In order to determine the length of line needed to complete their shape, players will need to use their rulers, as long as the value is not too large they can begin drawing the line. Make sure to write the measurement number on the line.
  5. For the second round, everyone draws a new card and traces another line which stems from one end of the first line.
  6. Each player tries to make a complete polygon by closing their figure with the next turn. If they can’t finish their polygon with the card value drawn, they have two options. If the number on the card is less than the length of line needed to complete the shape, they can either start on the line that will eventually close the shape, or they can start a new shape stemming from either end of the shape they’re currently trying to complete.
  7. When a player finishes a polygon, they need to state its perimeter. For each correct answer, they receive 5 points. Then, they can start on the next polygon.
  8. Whoever earns 50 points first, wins!

Helpful Hints: Remind your little one throughout the game that a polygon is a closed plane figure bound by straight lines, whereas the perimeter is the distance around a two-dimensional shape.

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What are your favorite math games for the classroom?

What are some fun things your students do during the lead-up to the holiday break? 

Share in the comments and share this post on Facebook and Twitter so more teachers can read your ideas! 

The Best Christmas Gift For Your Child’s Teacher

gift teacher

I’m a parent as well as a teacher, so you’d think I’d be one of those parents who spoils his daughter’s teachers with great gifts for the holidays. After all, I ought to know exactly what they want. But the truth is, there are years when I get them nothing at all. It’s not because I don’t appreciate what they do. All teachers know exactly how difficult the job is. Even teachers who do the bare minimum are providing parents a hugely valuable service. If you doubt that, take a look at child care costs these days.

There are a number of reasons — most of them bad — that I fail to get my daughter’s teachers a little something to show my appreciation. I’m cheap. I’m lazy. I don’t like shopping. I don’t want to look like I’m sucking up. But the biggest reason is that I have no idea what to get someone I don’t really know. So I do nothing and then feel bad about it.

But this year is going to be different.

As a teacher, I know that we don’t really want anything.

Actually, scratch that. It’s not true. Like everybody, we like getting gifts. I should say that we don’t expect anything.

Any gift we receive — homemade macaroni masterpieces,  coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, Amazon gift cards–will be appreciated. That said, there is one gift that will be treasured by any teacher and that I’ll be giving each of my daughter’s teachers this year.

Here’s what makes it the best Christmas gift for your child’s teacher:

  • It’s free.
  • It takes just a few minutes.
  • You don’t have to leave the house.
  • If you forget, you can still deliver it once the holiday break starts.
  • It’s foolproof; every teacher will love it.
  • It’s valuable and enduring.

What is it?

An email of genuine appreciation that specifically praises the teacher and that is copied to his or her principal.

Here’s why:

First, a lot of teachers have a tremendous amount of self-doubt. Most of us fear that we’re not very good. We’re sent this message quite regularly. Politicians aren’t shy about saying it. School leaders might try to be supportive, but administrator walk-throughs, pacing guides, and an insistence that teachers adhere to unproven programs instead of using their best judgment all send the message that we’re not trusted because we’re not very good.

Even in the best school cultures, teachers are presented with daily evidence of their failures. While we tend to credit students for their successes, we accept responsibility for their failures. And there are always failures. Stuck in our own rooms all day, we have little idea if what we’re doing is any good, so we assume it probably isn’t. We know that our most successful students would probably be successful with any teacher, while we wonder if those who struggle with us might be better off in a different room. A letter of appreciation lets the teacher know that you value their work. That they’re are making a difference for your child. That they don’t suck.

Second, teachers are evaluated by their principals. These evaluations are often based, at least in part, on observations of their teaching. The observations are subjective, and principals are human beings. They can’t know everything that’s going on because they’re too busy. But they hear things. Those things influence their opinions of teachers. If principals hear more positive things, they’ll think more highly of their teachers. It’s similar to how we judge movies. If you hear that a movie is great before you see it, you’re predisposed to like it. A principal that hears a lot of good things about a teacher is going to be more likely to give that teacher a good evaluation.

So if you want to do your kid’s teacher a solid, or if you just want an easy gift idea, send your kid’s teacher an appreciative email and make sure you CC her boss.

Here’s a template you can start with:

Dear Mrs. [Teacher’s Last Name],

I just wanted to take a minute to express my profound gratitude for the work you do as [Child’s Name] teacher. [Child’s Name] has not always loved school, but he really looks forward to coming to school each day this year. I know a large part of that is the relationship he has with you.

I also appreciate how you communicate with me and other parents through your newsletter and by promptly responding to emails and text messages. I always know what’s going on.

Lastly, I know the job of a teacher is stressful. I have just two kids of my own and can only imagine the challenges of trying to teach [Number of Students the Teacher Teaches]. While I’ve never seen you teach, [Child’s Name] tells stories, and I am impressed by the good humor you’re able to maintain in the classroom.

I hope it’s okay that I copied your principal on this email. I just want him to know how much this parent appreciates the good work you do. Have a wonderful holiday season and enjoy your well-deserved break. Thank you!

[Your Name]