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Help Your Students Improve Their Math Literacy the Entire Year

Every August, I find myself prepping for back to school. With this in mind comes all the bulletin board prep, activity files, classroom library, d more! Setting up my Mad Math Dash station is one of the most fun areas of the classroom (and truthfully, year long adventure)! This is a great way to boost student math literacy while also having fun.

What is Mad Math Dash?

This is a phrase I eventually coined in our fifth grade classroom about a decade ago. It became rather obvious after about a month or so that my students loved the challenge between one another, but mostly themselves. As we would get closer to testing time I would encourage students to take out their packets and begin a mad dash.

Fast forward to the present. Now that I'm teaching all subjects again, I have the opportunity to continue the mad dash! Here's a look at how I set up and encourage my students to participate (it's all completely voluntary . . . FYI)!

The Setup

I begin by creating a poster which includes all math standards and student names. Yes, in the beginning, I manually used a poster board and measuring stick to create a large version of the poster. Now I work at a school with a poster maker. Not sure why I never went to Office Max and had them do this for me – I would've saved so much time!

Once all standards and names are in, I copy all the math packets. At least one sheet for each standard, front to back, and I finish with a staple in the top corner. I pass these out to students the first week of school after I explain how the process works. I give them the opportunity to write their own name. In the past, I have also allowed students to grab a single sheet at a time from a labeled crate.

5th Grade Math Poster

The Process

Once I set up the board with the new poster and I've made copies, I explain to students how the process works:

  1. This is completely OPTIONAL – students do not have to ever participate in Mad Math unless they want to. It's always a “can do” or choice option when finished with work.
  2. I demonstrate how each standard will match a page in the packet.
  3. Students are only able to complete ONE page at a time. They must come to me with a page completed, let me check it, score a 100 and then they can move on. They can then move over and mark the Mad Math Dash Poster/Chart.
  4. If they don't get all questions correct then they haven't quite mastered that skill. I give two chances to prove they're the master of a standard. If not, or not quite there yet, then I pull out activities to work on to help boost and master that skill.

The Payoff

As students master a standard and get a sign off from me, they are able to fill in the square next to their name, under the standard to show they mastered. In the end, the mad math dash is how quickly they can move through at mastering their math skills. Since this is voluntary, I have found that more students will buy-in. They like the idea of being able to complete the mad dash at their own pace and show how much they have learned.

Full Year Common Core Sets for both 4th Grade and 5th Grade

What Now?

Are you looking to jumpstart this in your classroom? Get started today by downloading your own grade level poster today. All spaces that include teacher name, standards, and student names are editable. Download it free here. Plus, you'll need some math worksheets to get you started. I have this set of common core math standard practice, with multiple options to demonstrate understanding. Please feel free to comment and let me know how it's working!



2 Responses

  1. I am new to teaching 5th grade Math this year, and I love this idea. It really spoke to me because the students have a choice to participate or not. I have found that with 5th grade, if it sounds like it is “their” idea, they are more likely to want to do it. Students are often times discouraged when they do not grasp a concept the first time around, but this allows for students to see that they are making progress even if they sometimes do not feel like they are. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I really love this idea. I think having it be optional gives students more of an opportunity to feel confident, rather than pressured when it comes to Math. A lot of students in my class were very competitive, so I know a lot of them would love to do something like this! For my students who struggle a bit more in Math, having it become an optional assignment lets them work at their own pace, practice when they want, and doesn’t give them as much Math anxiety! This is also great for me, when thinking about Intervention practices in preparation for the state test, and it can help me see where students are succeeding, and where we may need to review some more.

    Thank you for sharing this idea! I can’t wait to implement it this year in my class.

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