My calculus classes took a quiz on the power rule and "reverse power rule" before Thanksgiving break. (The "reverse power rule" is my name for the elementary anti-derivatives they've been taking ... it's always funny to make up terminology on the spot, and then all of a sudden realize that the "reverse power rule" and the "freeloader rule" are now recorded in 50 calculus notebooks). The results of the quiz suggested that my kids needed more time to digest the material, so that's what we've been doing for the past couple of days. They have a re-quiz tomorrow, so I thought that a good way to practice in a relaxed, positive atmosphere would be to play a review game. Turns out, I was wrong.
I stole the game from one of my colleagues Ted. Students work in pairs to solve a problem on the mini white-boards. For the first problem, Partner A is the only one who can write on the board; Partner B can help and offer advice, but cannot touch the marker. The roles switch for each problem. When they are done, they hold up their board. The first team to hold up the correct answer gets to throw a hacky sack at a target I've drawn on the board, and depending on where the sack lands they either get 1, 2, or 3 points. The throwing of the hacky sack clearly has no purpose other than getting the students up and excited, which kind of reminds me of Solve Crumple Toss, except that they don't have to throw away their work when they finish a problem.
I'm not sure what it was -- maybe I made the problems too hard, maybe I should have given them time in between rounds to finish up their solution even if they weren't the winning team, or maybe I should've figured out a way to get rid of the time pressure. In any case, a couple of teams wound up dominating the game and many students expressed frustration after class that they weren't able to get any of the problems right and they didn't like the time pressure. I tend to agree about the time pressure - after all, it's not about how fast you can do a problem, but how well - but if there's one calculus skill that lends itself to this kind of a game, it has to be taking derivatives using the power rule. It's like the multiplication tables, but for calculus.
I'm really curious if anyone out there has developed the perfect math review game -- one that is fun and competitive, but encourages (or better yet, forces) everyone to participate and doesn't automatically favor the quickest kids in the in the class.