Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Maths Vegas! (Negative Numbers)

Today my students and I went to 'Maths Vegas'!

In a series of lessons we have had on looking at negative numbers, adding and subtracting them and multiplying/dividing with negatives etc I found this resource on the TES that I thought would work perfectly to see how much the class had learnt, and what we needed to do more work on!

At the start of the lesson, before we started the 'Maths Vegas' activity I got the class to do a little starter activity that @reflectivemaths had come up with after a conversation with @ASTsupportAAli - a spin on the traditional 'Noughts and Crosses' game.
Continuning my experimentation with #poundlandpedagogy the class were given a bunch of my coloured square pieces of paper (Memo Cube) that I got from 'Pound World' to work on and in pairs they played the game - to see more info on the game see @reflectivemath's blog post here.

I used the time the class were playing the 'Noughts and Crosses' game to set up a table on the board that would be used for the main activity - 'Maths Vegas'. I went round each group and gave them the equipment they'd need and asked each for a suitable team name for the lesson.
Each group then had a mini whiteboard, marker and a visual representation of £50 that they would use in the activity.

Each group had the following equipment to use in the lesson.

As I was going round the class getting team names and giving out equipment the 'buzz' about what was going to happen started to generate. I was putting team names on the board 1 by 1 and so the other groups were naturally drawn towards these and what other groups were calling themselves. I then added to one of the groups an extra £10 to use in the lesson before anything had started. This naturally drew a few questions as to why one group had all of a sudden got more money to use when we hadn't even started!

As I addressed the class to explain the activity I immediately had a hand-up...'Why have they got more money sir?' The answer was simple, that group were the only group to have chosen a Mathematically themed team name for their group... 'Rhombus'. At this point, and as I was giving the reason, brilliantly, a few of the class kinda of said (as I was saying it) 'because it's a mathematical name'. Clearly I'd awarded extra points for this in the past! :)

I then explained that the activity would work as follows:

Each team had £50 (or in the case of 'Rhombus' £60) to 'play' with throughout the lesson.
They would be given a question to which they had to place a 'stake' on. They could place a minimum of £1 and a maximum of £10 on each question.
If as a group they then answered the question correctly their stake got added to their amount, if they got the question wrong the 'stake' was taken off their amount. So, if starting with £50 and placing £10 on the 1st question they'd have £60 if correct and £40 if they got it wrong.
The class were given 30 seconds on each question, after seeing the topic of the question (see resource) to decide on their stake.
The class were given 1 minute to answer each question once revealed.
The class had to hold up their whiteboards, with the answers on, at the same time to avoid any group/s writing down the answers of others.

Before then starting the activity, and taking each group's 1st stake I asked each group to assign certain roles. They needed one person to be the person who writes the group's answer on the whiteboard, one person to assign the 'stake' for each round, one person to agree on the group's final answer and the rest of the group would help work out the answers in each 'round'.

As the activity started there was a good 'buzz' about the classroom, each group engaged in trying to answer the questions. The groups worked well with one another and the competitive element behind how much each group was 'staking' on each question and therefore how much each group could have at the end of each round was fantastic. At points, the class got too excitable and so I decided to take off money for those groups that I had to wait for for far too long. This stopped some low level disruption and allowed us to move on through the questions much quicker than we were initially.

At the end of the 8 'rounds' we managed to get through I put the groups final scores on the board. These were determined by the amount of money they had gained/lost throughout the lesson. Every team lost money, which from an ethical 'gambling' point was what I wanted. At this point I used this fact to emphasise the problems with placing 'bets' and 'stakes' etc and made it clear that it was not something that I was trying to encourage, but educating them on instead.
The group that then 'won' at 'Maths Vegas' was the group that lost the least amount of money - happily, this was the group dubbed 'Arsenal'! :)
I also then gave some VIVOs (rewards) to those teams that didn't pick up any fines throughout the lesson.

Here's how the table looked at the end of the lesson...

You'll see the 'Thoughts on Crosses' activity examples I gave on the left. The main 'Maths Vegas' table on the rest of the board.

I would highly recommend doing this activity and using the resource above. The resource covers adding and subtracting negatives, ordering negative numbers (and finding the median of them), multiplying with negatives, dividing with negatives, magic squares with negative numbers, negative coordinates and more!


  1. Sounds superb Paul. Thanks for sharing. I will be using this next week. Probably adapted for a few classes!

  2. Love the activity - how long did it take?