Using Connect 4 to Review

I'm always looking for new ways to keep my students engaged.  When I face the facts, math is boring and I cannot even disagree.  It takes a special kind of person to love math, and I am fully aware that it's just not for everyone.  HOWEVER.  Throw a little competition in there and miracles can happen.

Now, before I dive in, I cannot take all of the credit on this one.  My version of a modified Connect 4 came about after a power thought session with my good friend Kristin from math.with.middles (that's her IG), inspiration from Natalie at theteachingfiles (that's her IG), and the idea of sum mats from another good friend Kenzie from 2ndaryMath (that's her IG).  This Solving Equations 4-in-a-Row (👈🏼 click that to get your free copy) is your ticket to trying this out with zero prep.

A little bit of this, a little bit of that, and I have students literally hurdling over tables to mark their spot on the board. 

Here's what works for me:  I project to the board a pre-made Connect 4 board and provide students with their own color sticky note stack.  If this isn't feasible for you, students can write their initials on the board to mark their space -- sticky notes just add color and make it easy to see a win!

**Another idea to replace sticky notes from my bestie Kim (KSMathandMore):  laminate cards tock and cut into squares, then add magnets to the back.  See below for how I used her idea to create our own reusable tiles**

I have my students work individually on their review packet, however they are welcome to ask each other for help, as well as myself, to practice the skills we have been learning.  My classes are small and they enjoying competing against each other, so individual work works best for us.  Again, you do you and what works best for you!  As a perfect example, when Kirstin (math.with.middles) plays, her students play in small groups.  You can send her a DM on IG to learn more!

Rather than checking each question individually, I will group a couple questions together and have students find the sum of their answers.  This idea comes from Kenzie and her use of "sum mats" in her classroom!  As students are working on their review, I can quickly check to see if their sum is correct -- if it's not, I'll investigate further and help correct any errors being made.  

Grouping a couple questions together also helps me to "trick" my students into solving more questions than they might do on a regular review.  They are unable to claim a space on our Connect 4 game board unless the sum of a section is correct.  As an example, we recently played Connect 4 with right triangles and the Pythagorean Theorem.  Here, students had 4 triangles with missing side that they needed to solve for.  After each side was found, they found the sum of their answers and wrote it in the center.  The sum is what I check first!

Do we follow the "rules" of Connect 4?  Absolutely not.  We're more of a "no rules apply" kind of classroom when it comes to this.  I have classes that are VERY competitive and work diligently to block each other.  I have other classes that play kindly and each student has their own spot on the board that they work to form as many Connect 4's as possible.  Whatever is going to float your boat and make your students happy is exactly what you should do.  We have so many laughs and giggles as we play, and I have students complete more in this one class period than they complete in an entire week -- and for me, that is a win I cannot even put into words.  

After a few rounds and more wasted sticky notes than I'd like to admit, I made my own tiles students will use the next time we play.  To do this, I cut 8.5" x 11" cardstock into 2.5" squares.  Using a glue stick, I spaced out 12 squares (3 by 4) between lamination pages and laminated.  From here, I quickly cut out the squares then used a corner punch to round the edges.  Once this was done, I added peel and stick magnet squares to the back of each tile, and that's it!

Are you ready to start playing in your classroom?  I have a Solving Equations (👈🏼 click that link for a free resource) version for you that is ready to use upon download.  This works great at the end of your unit on solving equations, as well as a refresher when solving skills start to slip up.  If you're wondering, I used this right after spring break and it was exactly what my Algebra 1 students needed to get back into the swing of things!