This week's #MSSunFun post is about favorite ways to practice.

I use a variety of ways to practice as I don't want kids to get bored doing math. Just giving them practice problems or worksheets might work for some but will definitely turn others off. I use a variety of games most often to practice, at other times I'll have students do some writing and reflecting and yes at times I do have them do some problems or even a short worksheet. However, my most favorite way to have students practice applying their math skills is Think Dots.

I'm not sure exactly who I got the idea of Think Dots from. It could have been in a Rick Wormelli book. It could have been when we had Nancy Smith present on using differentiated instruction in math and science. Anyhow whoever I got the idea from, thank you!

The basis idea behind Think Dots is that a student will work with another student to solve and discuss a minimum of six problems. These problems could be all about one topic or about a number of topics. I tend to use more word based problems that make students apply whatever we are learning (say prime factorization) but you could do Think Dots with mental math problems or even rote skills.

I print out the six problems onto a piece of card stock which I then chop into six pieces.

On the back of each piece I use colored dots that our fantastic librarian (Thanks Kim!) gave me.

Originally they were designed to be level books but we stopped doing that soon after she got the dots in and thus had no use for them (lucky me!) I put one dot on the back of one card, two on another, three on a third, and so on. I try my best to make them look just like dice. Then I hole punch the upper left hand corner of the cards and use a ring to hold all six cards together. Now the Think Dots are ready to go.

I pair students up (depending on the skill being done, I will often "make" the groups because I may have differentiated the questions for readiness) and give each pair a set of Think Dots. I also give each pair a small stack of sticky notes and a dice. The first student rolls the dice and has to answer the question that matches up with their roll. They are asked to not only talk the answer out with their partner but also write a synopsis of their answer on the sticky note which they then attach to the Think Dot cards.

After the first partner has answered his or her question, they move on to the next partner who rolls the dice and answers the next question. The activity continues in this way until all the questions are answered. Once all the questions are answered, students turn in their cards to me (sticky notes attached). This allows me to look at their understanding later and possibly be able to clear up some misconceptions the next day.

I love this activity for a lot of reasons. It gets kids talking and writing about math. Kids are up and working with a partner. I'm able to get around and sit with groups and listen to answers and provide a thought as well. Because of the nature of the problems, I'm able to differentiate them to meet students readiness levels. It gives me good feedback on where kids are, both from what I hear and what I get back on the sticky notes. Lastly, the kids enjoy it. Oddly enough, they love to roll dice, they like talking with one another, and they like the fact they aren't just doing a packet of problems.

I highly recommend giving some version of Think Dots a try. Here is a sample of my prime factorization Think Dots. Please feel free to try them.

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