Introduction: Equation Mania is a game used to reinforce the distributive property and combining like terms and review the order of operations.

Timing: This game should take about 30 minutes to complete.


Group Size: Small groups

Learning Objectives: The objective of this game is to use the distributive property, combining like terms, and order of operations to write each expression in simplest form.


Guiding Question: What does it mean for an expression to be in simplest form?


Materials: Students will need pens and scrap paper. In my case I have mini-white boards for each student. Photocopy enough games sheets for each group to have one. Photocopy the cards onto card stock.



Here are the rules of the game:

Students should be working in groups of 3 or preferably 4. In my class the students are grouped during most activities, so they have an assigned roll within the group (Captain, Mathematician, Supply Sergeant, and Record Keeper).

Each team is given a total of 12 cards, 3 at a time. Teams can work on one card at a time! The goal is to have the teams work collaboratively on each card. If students are working on two or three cards at a time, they will lose a card for two minutes. Basically, a two-minute time penalty.

Once they finish their first set of three cards, one group member will raise their hand, while the rest of the group sits quietly. The teacher will then come and check their answers. If they are right, the teacher will remove one person from the group. The removal occurs in a pre-determined order based on their group rolls. If that does not work for your class, you could eliminate students by taking: the person who has the birthday closest to the current day, the person with the letter of their last name that is closest to the letter z, the person with the most letters in their first name, etc…

The teacher will then give three more cards. Students must report any repeater cards they receive (the cannot do the same card twice).

Keep repeating the process until you have one group member and you have solved all the cards. - For groups of three don’t remove someone after the first round.

Removed group members will go to the back of the class and quietly work on their homework until asked to rejoin their group. If a group member is noisy, a two-minute penalty will be added to their team’s remaining players.

This game can be challenging to run with an unruly class. Since there will be multiple groups who finish a set of three cards at one time, it is important for the instructor to face the rest of class while checking one group’s answers. Keeping a running order helps. For example, while I’m checking a answers I will point at finished groups in the order their hands were raised and call out 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Once a group is given a placing to be checked, I’ll ask them to lower their hands, so I won’t confuse which group to check next.

Equation Mania is collaborative learning activity. To succeed, students will need to work together on the opening set of problems. Stronger students will need to help weaker students understand the material since it is anyone’s guess who will be the last person left at the table. I typically give points for the top three placing groups and points for the group that works best together.

Assessment: Students will complete questions throughout the game and receive immediate feedback on correctness.

Answer Key: The answer key is included.

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