Thursday, January 21, 2016

Thursday Tool School: Calculator Challenges- The Power of the Order

Today's calculator challenge involves using four 4s to create expressions that simplify to a value of 0 - 9. The challenge requires students to use their order of operation skills to determine which operations to use and in what order to complete the task. Using the calculator, students can check their expressions for accuracy or use more sophisticated calculators to input the expression as is and obtain the simplified value. The challenge is displayed below. 

The picture below shows an interactive display that I created in my classroom for my students. As they completed the “May the Fours Be With You” activity, I asked them to check their expressions with me. 

Then, I asked the students to add their expressions to the posters displayed around the room. (The posters in the photo are a polished example of the students’ responses that I reworked in order to share this photo with you. However, these are the expressions they created.) 

This became an excellent activity– one that totally had the students engaged! They all wanted to create an expression for numbers that did not yet have an expression written on the poster. I left the posters up for a few weeks so that the students could continue to add to them. 

The activity also made a great fast finisher challenge. As an added bonus, the students enjoyed checking the other students’ responses to be sure that they did in fact equal the number at the top of the poster. This provided a rich opportunity to review the order of operations and how to simplify expressions. 

Note: This challenge also appeared in my "Order of Operations Math Detective Pack" at my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Pick-up a free copy here

Sound Off! How do you use calculators in the classroom?


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