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When students start middle school, they leap into a brand new math realm. For many children, the size of the newly acquired math schoolbook, along with the increased workload will seem intimidating.
As a middle school math teacher or educator, you’d naturally want to facilitate this tricky transition to ‘tweenhood’ math and help your students. Adding fun to your math lessons is perhaps the most effective way to do so. That’s why we’ve created a list of 13 fun and educational math activities for middle school that you can use to achieve this. Read on to learn more.
13 Math Activities for Middle School
1. Exponent Battle
As the first activity on our math activities for middle school list, we have exponent battle. As the name suggests, you can use this game for learning and practicing exponentiation. The game is bundles of fun and its competitive aspect really sharpens the fast thinking of students. The best part of it? You don’t need anything but a deck of cards and willing players!
The steps for playing this game are as follows:
- Divide students into pairs of two and ask one player to be the dealer. They deal the cards, one by one, to the other player and themselves. The cards should be dealt face down.
- After the dealer has dealt all cards, both players simultaneously turn the top card face-up. The number on this card will serve as the base for the given player. The players then take the next card, which will be the exponent.
- For example, if the first card a player takes has the number 9 on it, and then the next card is the number 3, then 9 will represent the base and 3 the exponent for this player, i.e.93. If the other player takes a 6 and a 4, then they’ll have 64.
- Now both players should calculate the product without using a calculator and compare whose product is higher. For instance, if player one has 93 (or 9x9x9 = 729) and player two has 64 (or 6x6x6x6 = 1296), then player two is the one with the higher product in this round and wins it.
- The winner takes all cards that have been picked in the given round and gathers them in their pile. Continue playing the game until players have turned over all cards. In the end, players count how many cards each person has collected. The one who has collected the most cards is declared a winner.
2. ’Round the Block
To do this activity, you’ll need to bring a ball to class and prepare a list of math challenges. You can adjust the activity to practice almost any math concept in middle school.
The way you organize the activity is simple:
- Ask students to stand in a square and give the ball to a random person from the square and a math challenge.
- The student then passes the ball to the child standing next to them in the square, they pass it to the next one, and so on, until the ball goes ‘round the block and comes back to the student to whom it was initially given.
- By this time, the student should have had enough time to do the mental math and come up with an answer.
- The math challenge shouldn’t be too wordy so that the student has time to answer it before the ball comes back to them.
- For example, let’s say you want to practice rational and irrational numbers. You could prepare a list of challenges with rational and irrational numbers, such as: “Which of these is not an irrational number, a square root of 64, a square root of 5, or a square root of 3?”
- The student that answers then passes the ball to a person they randomly select from the square and the whole process is repeated.
3. Pairing Decimals Game
Next on our math activities for middle school list, we have the pairing decimals game. This is an easy game that will help children practice decimals. The aim of the activity is to pair decimals in order to reach the number 10. To play the Pairing Decimals Game, simply follow these guidelines:
- Prepare a set of cards with decimals on them beforehand. Make sure that each decimal that you put on a given card has a corresponding pair to reach the number 10. For example, 0.7 and 9.3, 5.5 and 4.5, etc.
- You can prepare as many cards as you wish, depending on the number of students in your class.
- Cut each of the cards and mix them. Then give one card to every student in the classroom and tell them that they should find the person that has the ‘matching card’. For example, a student that got a card with 0.7 on it will search for a student with 9.3 on their card.
- Instruct students not to reveal the decimal that’s on their cards to the whole group.
- Each student goes around the classroom, from person to person, asking students if they have a matching decimal number.
- They aren’t allowed to ask questions like “what’s your decimal?”; they can only ask “do you have xx decimal” (e.g.: “do you have 9.3?”). This way, they’ll have to calculate in advance how much they need to make 10.
- When a student finds their match, they’re declared winners. In the meantime, the game continues until everyone has found their match.
- If you want to make the game more exciting, you can add small awards for the ones that come 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.
4. Fractions Lottery
Use Fraction Lottery to practice fractions in your class. You’ll need to prepare chips with different numbers on them (1 through 20). Make sure you include each number twice, i.e. you should have 40 chips in total. Also, bring a large vessel where you’ll put the chips.
- Divide the class into several groups of 3, 4 students
- Then choose a person who’ll randomly draw two chips from the vessel, without looking while drawing the chips.
- The two chips will form a fraction, that is the first chip that’s drawn will represent the numerator, and the second one the denominator.
- Tell the teams that they should try to simplify the fraction, for example, 20/8 should be simplified as 5/2. The first team that manages to do this is the winner in that round.
- Continue playing until children get tired. The team that wins the most rounds wins the game.
- A variation of the game is to divide students into two groups and ask a player from each group to draw two chips in order to form a fraction.
- The teams then state their fractions in front of the whole class and race to determine which fraction is bigger.
- The team that is quicker scores a point if their answer is correct. The same procedure is then repeated and the game ends after an agreed number of rounds.
- The team that has the most points in the end is the one that wins the game.
5. Matching Fractions and Decimals Game
Play the Matching Fractions and Decimals Game after your students have been familiarized with the process of converting fractions into decimals since the aim of the game is to pair the fractions with corresponding decimal numbers.
There is a bit of prep work that you need to do before class. This includes gathering a large number of plastic bottle caps (24 caps per student) and writing fractions and corresponding decimals on them. You can ask your students to help you with the cap collection, but make sure that they’re brightly-colored so that it’s easier to write on them.
After you’re done with the fraction and decimal writing, follow these instructions:
- Divide students into pairs of two and place a timer next to each player.
- Give each player in the pairs 24 bottle caps, or two sets of 12 caps. One set has fractions on the caps, whereas the other one has corresponding decimals.
- Try to use fractions and decimals for which the students rely on their mental math, as they should be using calculators to find the matching pairs. For instance, you can use ¼ and its corresponding decimal 0.25, or 3/6 and 0.5.
- Explain to students that they should race against each other to match the fraction with the right decimal number. The first one that manages to match all 12 caps stops their timer and wins the game.
- Remind students to check their answers before stopping the timer, as incorrect answers will negatively impact their final score by adding five seconds to their time for every incorrect match.
- If you want to make the game even more challenging, feel free to add a third set of bottle caps with percentages on them that students have to match with the corresponding fraction and decimal. Again, you’d want to make sure you’re only using examples students can calculate by simply relying on mental math (ex: ⅕ and 0.2 and 20%).
6. Life-Sized Number Line
The benefits of visual number lines in classrooms have already been pointed out in studies. Using such visual representation can work wonders for children’s understanding of the magnitude and order of numbers. And even if you’re a homeschooling parent, number lines are also great for you, as they don’t require group activities.
Number lines on the whiteboard or in individual worksheets are fine, but creating a life-sized number line on the floor is even more beneficial, as students can actually move along it, which makes the whole learning experience more exciting. This is why we had to include this one on our math activities for middle school list.
You can easily create a number line by cutting out paper squares with numbers on them or using numbered paper plates, or you can simply buy foam numbers. Then arrange the numbers in a line of the floor and use tape so that moving along them is safe and easy.
Once the number line is done, you’re ready to practice some integer operations!
- Give an integer equation to each student, and ask them ‘to solve it’ on the number line.
- Number lines are especially useful for adding and subtracting positive and negative numbers, so examples of the kinds of equations you could use are: -6 + 3; + 5 – 13 et
- Once they’re comfortable with simpler equations, move on to more complicated ones, such as 14 – (-6) + 7 -13
- Make sure that the individual equations you give to the children can actually be represented on the number line, for example, if your number line only goes back to -30, make sure you don’t have equations whose result is – 45.
7. Percentage War
This is a group game that will boost percentage calculation skills in your students. Children should already be familiarized with expressing one amount as a percentage of another to play the game. You’ll have to prepare percentage-related math problems beforehand and adjust their number to the number of students in your class.
Then, follow these instructions:
- Divide the class into groups of 4, 5 students. Each group sits in a different corner of the classroom.
- Explain to the groups that they have to race against each other to answer the math challenge correctly.
- Assign the first math percentage problem by reading it out loud from the card or presenting it visually on PowerPoint or an interactive whiteboard.
- This could be something like: “There are 30 sweets in Sally’s bag. 5 of the sweets are strawberry flavored. What percentage of sweets are strawberry flavored?”
- The first group to solve the given math challenge wins that round. You’ll then give the groups another challenge and repeat the process.
- In the end, the group with the biggest number of correct answers wins the game.
8. Pythagorean Theorem Proof
Next on our math activities for middle school list is the Pythagorean theorem proof activity. This is an excellent activity for deep learning. The objective of the Pythagorean theorem proof activity is to demonstrate the Pythagorean theorem visually. Most children will easily remember the formula of a2 + b2 = c2, but why is it so and how do you prove this?
An easy way to do this is by drawing! To do this, you’ll need large grid paper, scissors, a ruler, and a marker (if you have an interactive board, it will work even better).
- Place the grid paper on the floor and gather children in a circle around it. They can assist you in all of the following steps.
- Draw a right triangle on the grid paper and then cut it out.
- Now, cut out three squares from the grid paper with sides that are equal to each triangle side.
- Start with side a. Measure its length and draw a square whose sides are the same length as side a. Cut out the square and write a2 inside of it (in reference to the calculation of a square’s area, something that students are already familiar with from lower grades).
- Now repeat the same procedure to make squares based on the length of side b and side c. Write b2 and c2 inside the squares respectively.
- Now place each square right next to the adequate side of the triangle: for instance, the square a2 is placed next to side a of the triangle, the square b2 is placed next to side b of the triangle and the square c2 is placed next to side c.
- Now it’s time to show in practice the formula a2 + b2 = c2. Put square a2 and square b2 on top of square c2, in a way that they are covering it. To get a perfect fit, you’ll have to cut either square a2 or square b2 and then add the cut parts of the grid paper so that square c2. is entirely covered.
- Congrats! You’ve done it! And your students probably loved the visualization of this process! Now, not only do they know that a2 + b2 = c2,, but they actually know why a2 + b2 = c2.
To learn more about the Pythagorean theorem, check out our 8th-grade blog.
9. Oreo Math
If you’re wondering how to introduce the concepts of median, mean, and average, here’s a fun (not to mention tasty!) activity that you could use in your classroom! You can also adjust this activity for your homeschooling lessons if you’re homeschooling your kids.
The aim of the activity is to gather data that you could later use for median, mean, and average calculations. You don’t need a lot of preparation beforehand, just make sure you have plenty of Oreo cookies (7 or 8 packs should be sufficient).
Then follow these simple steps:
- Divide students into groups of 4 to 5 people and assign one person in each group to do data collection.
- Now give a few packs of Oreo cookies to each group.
- Tell the students that they should try to stack as many cookies as possible before the tower falls.
- All students in all groups take turns and give it a try.
- The person who is writing down the data should write down the number of cookies that each person stacked before the pile collapsed. This could look something like 10, 13, 9, 10, etc.
- Explain to students that this is not a competition, so they should be honest about the numbers.
- After each group had gathered around 5, 6 different numbers, ask them to calculate the median, mean and average! (and eat those towers of delicious Oreo!)
- Finally, at the end of the class, each group presents their results and explains how they did their calculations in front of the other groups.
To learn more about calculating mean, median, and mode, check out our awesome blog post.
10. Volume Victory
This is a board game that you can use to practice calculating the volume of cones, prisms, pyramids, and cylinders. The game should be played after you’ve introduced students to the formulas for finding volumes of the mentioned geometric shapes. It can also be fun to play, so no wonder it made it on our math activities for middle school list.
For starters, you need to create a game board consisting of a line in the shape of a snake. You can draw this on colorful cardboard to make it more interesting. Then, divide the body of the snake into several spots (ex: around 20), and draw a specific geometric shape (prism, cone, etc.) on each spot.
Keep in mind that you’ll need to create 3, 4 game boards depending on the size of your class, as they’ll be split into groups and each group should have their own game board. Also, as students should move from one spot to another until they reach the end of the snake, make sure to bring plenty of chips that indicate the position of each student.
Prepare some 40 volume cards (including cones, prisms, pyramid, and cylinder cards) for each game board. On its outer side, each card should have a drawing of the shape it represents (ex: a prism), and on the inside, it should contain a math problem related to the specific geometric shape (in this case, a prism math problem).
After you’re done with the hard work, it’s time to start playing!
- Divide students into groups of 4 or 5, and place a game board and a set of Volume cards in each group. Divide the set of Volume cards into four card piles: cones, prisms, pyramids, and cylinders.
- Make sure the Volume cards are facing downwards, i.e. children are only able to see the geometric shape on each pile of cards, but not the volume challenge on the inside of the card.
- Place the appropriate number of chips in each group, depending on how many players the group has.
- Now explain the rules of the game to the students. Tell them that players in each group are competing against each other and not against other groups.
- Explain that the aim of the game is to move around the game board with the chips and reach the end of the board as fast as possible. To be able to move from spot to spot, students must find the volume of the specific figure that they landed on.
- For example, each student starts from the same spot, for example, a Cylinder spot can be the starting spot. Each student then draws a random card from the cylinder pile and reads the volume challenge on the inside of the card.
- If they’re able to find the volume of the cylinder, they can move a few spots. How many spots they move is correlated with the difficulty of the volume challenge. For instance, for very difficult challenges, they can move 3 spots and for easier challenges, they move only one spot. It will be written on each card how many spots they can move.
- The first person to reach the end of the board game wins first place, the second one comes in second, etc.
For more resources on teaching children about volumes of prisms and cylinders, check out our blog post.
11. Classroom Village
Our math activities for middle school list would be incomplete without the fun classroom village game. Create a village with your students in the classroom to practice calculating a cone area. This activity is mainly given as a homework assignment, which children bring to class and present.
The aim of the activity is to create a village with different houses, each consisting of a rectangle (the main body of the house) and a cone (the roof of the house).
To implement this activity, students will need to be familiar with the formula for finding a cone’s surface area, i.e. πrs + πr2. In other words, they’re simply consolidating already acquired knowledge.
Prepare a space for a math bulletin board where the village project will be displayed at the end. Create several cards with a math challenge on finding a cone area. Then simply follow these instructions to create an awesome village project:
- Place the pile of cards with cone area challenges on your desk and ask each student to draw a random card.
- The cards should be facing downwards so that children can’t see what the challenge is.
- After each student has drawn a card, they read their math challenge and try to figure out the answer. Children do this activity as homework.
- An example of a challenge could be something like:
“You have to create your house in the village. Your roof is shaped like a right circular cone, with a radius of 5 cm and a height of 12 cm. Find the total surface area of your roof. Draw the roof on paper, decorate it any way you please, and cut it out. Afterward, write the roof area on it.
The body of your house is a rectangle, which you can create with any dimensions you please and glue it to the roof.”
- Next class, each student brings their house and places it on the math bulletin board, next to the houses of the other students.
- And there you have it, you’ve managed to create a coy, little village with your students!
Children are bound to enjoy the visual representation of their efforts in a joint way. Thus, the activity not only helps practice cone area but helps build a sense of community in your class.
12. Area and Circumference Bingo
Bingo is always an exciting game to introduce math concepts. Use this bingo game to practice calculating the area and circumference of circles. Children should be familiar with the corresponding formulas for finding the area and circumference in advance, i.e. A = πr2 and C= 2πr.
Create a set of question cards and a set of unique bingo cards (adjust the exact number according to the number of students in your class). The question cards contain circle area and circumference questions, whereas the unique bingo cards are cards with answers. Bring a number of markers, as well.
The steps for playing this activity are as follows:
- Hand out markers and a unique bingo card to each student. Keep the question cards for yourself.
- Explain the rules of the game to your students. Most of them are probably already familiar with bingo, so you can tell them that this game is played like regular bingo, but it differs in that instead of the teacher calling out numbers, they give a math question on area and circumference.
- The students then need to calculate this math problem. If they have the answer on their unique bingo card, they need to mark it with a marker.
- The student that has managed to create a straight line by marking answers on their card, shouts ‘Bingo!’
- Provide prizes for the winner, such as sweets or less homework for the next class.
13. Escape Room
And lastly, on our math activities for middle school list we have the escape room game. Digital escape rooms are a big hit with children, but if you don’t have the means to provide a tablet or such like each student so that they play in a digital escape room – you might as well create an escape room in your own classroom! And no, we’re not thinking literally locking children up in the classroom!
Instead, you simply bring a large lockbox in the classroom and create a captivating narrative around it. If you need ideas for what to put inside the box, you can include different types of prizes, such as chocolate, candy, etc.
Afterwards, create cards with different math problems, such as multiplying and dividing negative numbers. Make sure to also create a narrative around the escape room in advance.
Now that you have your box and math resources ready, dive into the escape room!
- Divide students into groups of 4 or 5.
- Explain that you’re playing an escape room game and they need to solve a few math challenges in order to unlock the room (that is, the box).
- Place the box in the middle of the classroom. If you want to add more sensory stimulation to the whole experience, you can also have some eerie music in the background.
- Read the pre-prepared narrative to the students. An example of such a narrative could be the following:
“A horrible tragedy has struck a medieval town. The town has fallen prey to a wicked witch that has cast a curse on all the town’s residents, due to which they fell into eternal slumber. The only ones that can reverse the spell are you, the last remaining wizards on earth. However, the witch has locked all of your potions in a box! In order to unlock the box, you’ll need to solve several math riddles. The residents’ lives are in your hands!”
- Give the first card with an integer challenge to each group. You can either place the other cards in strategic locations, or you can simply hand them over to students one by one if the classroom is too small.
- After solving each integer challenge, the group writes down their answer. The answer to each integer challenge forms the lock combination.
- Thus, the first group that manages to solve the integer challenges is the group that will find out the lock combination and win the game.
This article outlined 13 math activities for middle school incorporating a broad range of math concepts. From teaching about decimals, fractions, and percentages through competitive games and movement to proving the Pythagorean theorem by drawing, these math activities for middle school are guaranteed to make your math lessons a stimulating and enjoyable experience for your students.
Are you interested in more math resources for kids? Take a look at our blog, or head over to our site at MathTeacherCoach, where you’ll find math curricula for kids of all ages. If you want a preview, simply sign up for these free samples of our 4th grade curriculum.