This is a rich and easy time-filler or warm-up. I love having this in my teacher’s idea bag and ready to use at any time. There is absolutely no prep needed. But, to make it even easier for you, I created cute free structured printables and Google Slides that you can grab at the bottom of this post. 🤓
You can use this math activity as a time-filler or a warm-up activity. It can be used over and over again in a variety of ways and can even be differentiated to meet the needs of all levels. You can also vary this time-filler for your highest students to your most struggling, from first grade to 7th grade. It’s fun and always challenging, open-ended, and never the same. You’ll also love this as prompts for Flipgrid!💙
I remember my fourth-grade teacher, Miss Harris, giving us this challenge at least once a week. Now I know it was a time-filler for her. We, her students, just knew we loved it. She would use the day’s date as our target number. For today, she would have used 28. So our target number was always different. We would use our math notebooks to find as many equations as possible for that target number.
I’ve taken Miss Harris’s wonderful time-filler and structured it as a fall activity for you!
Here’s how it works:
- First, choose a target number. You might choose 30 for Halloween, 14 for Valentine’s Day, or the day’s date. If it’s January 21st, you could use 121, or 21, or 2,120, or 212,020, or even just 1. As a time-filler or morning warm-up, choose any number that makes sense for the students you’re working with.
- Then have students write as many equations as they can with the target number as their solution. The students’ goal is to be the one with the most different correct equations.
Simple. Fun. Challenging. This is a great time-filler and also perfect for early finishers.
Suggestions for Differentiation:
Use whole numbers, fractions, negative numbers, or decimal numbers based on your students’ needs.
In addition, you can provide parameters for your time-filler such as:
- Use only addition and subtraction
- Have at least three different computations
- You may use the commutative property (2 x 7 = 14 and 7 x 2 = 14 are counted as two separate problems)
- You may NOT use the commutative property to count as separate problems
- Use all four operations at least once in each equation
- An exponent must be used once in each of your equations
- At least two negative numbers must be used in each of your equations
- Use parentheses in each equation
For older students:
For older students, you can vary this by assigning a point system where each operation within an equation is equal to one point. Then students tally their points to find who has the most. This gets students to think outside the box and be more creative. To amplify the fun factor, have students circle each operation they used in a different color!
For younger students:
For younger students, if you’ve worked on mental math using strings of numbers, then this time-filler is the perfect opportunity for students to practice! (4 + 4 – 3 + 9 = 14 without parentheses where computations are just done in the order they are presented is considered a string of numbers.)
To present this to students:
After presenting the target number and any parameters you’ve set, give students 1 to 2 minutes to work independently. Then select 3 to 4 students that you’ve noticed had different thinking and equations. Next, ask them to tell the class about their solutions so far.
This quick number talk gives those students who may be stuck in their thinking a new direction and helps them see any computation patterns they may have missed. It also gives me an opportunity to point them in the direction needed.
Then have them continue working until the timer you’ve set goes off. after that, students can share things they’ve noticed. They can switch papers or share their screens and look quickly at each others’ work (no grading, just noticing and thinking). You may choose to have students share ideas one more time with someone different so they get a good idea of others’ thinking. Above all, your goal is to get them to think flexibly and outside their own box. 🤓
For this structured FREE fall activity, I have included a Google Slides Version with interactive text boxes. After you make your master copy in your Google drive, you may want to make two separate copies for students, one copy with only the pumpkin slide, and another with only the candy corn slide. Then you can assign those two copies at different times.
Also, the color copies in the FREEBIE are great to project on your interactive whiteboard for a morning warm-up.
I hope this fun and rich math activity gives you many, many uses, and saves you tons of teacher-time along the way!