Saturday, July 14, 2012

Order of Operations Flashcards

My algebra class is working on mastering order of operations.  My goal for the summer is to prepare the students for the upcoming year.  I think that they best way to do this is to have them master the basic skills.  For my algebra class I'm focusing so far on integers and order of operations.

To master the basics, they need to practice.  I do not, however, want to just throw practice worksheets at them over and over.

To practice order of operations I had each student create and solve their own problem.  They had to show all their work and have it checked by me or my teaching assistant. They enjoyed doing this and I got to see just how comfortable each student was by the complexity of the problem they created.

After we made sure the students all had the correct answer, they created 5 flashcards.   On all five cards they wrote their problem on the front of the card and on only one of the cards they solved it on the back.  The solved "answer key" card went into their notebook.

Use another index card turned horizontally to make the pocket.
Tape down the sides and bottom and use to store cards.

Once everyone had created their cards, it was time to switch.  Each student traded cards with four other students.  The beauty of this part is that it is so easy to differentiate based on how you have them exchange cards.  For the most part, students created problems that were at their level of understanding.  So kids that were more advanced created more challenging problems and kids that were struggling created simpler problems.  Depending on how you have them exchange, you can control the level of problems each student is getting.  A couple options:

  • Put students into groups of 5 and have them only switch cards within their group.  Create the groups based on the level that each student is at.  This way students receive problems to work on that are at their level.  I personally like this way the best.  It is a good way to keep the more advanced students engaged because they are working on challenging problems.
  • Put students into groups of 5, but create groups that have a mixture of students.  This way all students in the group get problems of different levels of difficulty.  This may be good to challenge the lower students, but may end up boring the higher students a little bit.  
  • Allow students to exchange freely.  This is what I did and it worked really well.  The students all got to choose the problems they were going to work on.
When they had traded all four of their cards, they returned to their seats to solve.

Once they had the answers, I told them that they had to check their answers with the problem's creator since they were the "expert" on that problem.  Since I had checked each persons problem and work I knew that they had the right answers.

They were so good at helping each other.  Since they created the problem themselves they really felt confident about helping other students.  They weren't just telling them the right answer, they were actually checking the person's work against their own and helping the other person to find the mistake that they had made.  I really loved how constructive and helpful they were being.

I will definitely be repeating this activity.  The best part of it is that it can really be done for any topic and requires no set up on my part whatsoever.


  1. This really is an excellent idea that can be used with a variety of lessons.
    I'm getting very excited about using Interactive Notebooks with my Pre-Algebra classes for the first time this year. Thank you for sharing all your posts, information, and printables.

    1. Yes you can definitely use this with almost anything. It was so awesome to see how much the kids got into helping each other. Glad you're enjoying!

  2. All your ideas are so awesome! I just graduated in May and made the comment to my husband that they don't teach practical application like this in college! I'm so thankful for posts - they inspire me to think more student-centered.

    1. Aw thanks!! I agree that I didn't feel like I got a lot of practical stuff in college..I can't even start to list all the ideas that I've gotten from other teachers that I've worked with and blogs that I read online. Thanks again for reading, I'm glad you're finding ideas you can use :)