Get as Close as You Can: A Mathematical Odyssey

The art of teaching math extends beyond textbooks and worksheets. Teachers need innovative, exciting methods to invigorate the classroom, captivate their students, and help them perceive mathematics in an entirely new light. One such classroom-tested and teacher-approved strategy is a game called “Get as Close as You Can.” This high-engagement game combines fun and learning, making math enjoyable for students and reinforcing the fundamental operations of mathematics: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. This blog post will explore this mathematical activity’s intricacies, its ability to inspire critical thinking, and how it can be tailored to meet various students’ learning needs.

“Get as Close as You Can”: A Game Synopsis:

“Get as Close as You Can” is more than just an excellent time filler; it’s an exercise that encourages students to strategize, analyze, and critically think about their math operations to reach a target number. Its simplicity is its selling point; all you need is a chalkboard, a set of numbers, and eager minds ready for a challenge.

The rules are as follows:

  1. Begin by choosing a random number in the thousands and write it on the board. This becomes your “TARGET NUMBER.”
  2. To the side of the target number, write five random numbers.
  3. Invite students to use any of the five numbers, any math operation or combination of operations, to formulate an equation with an answer as close as possible to the target number.
  4. The student whose equation is closest to the target number wins!

For instance, if the target number is 1350, and the five random numbers are 10, 26, 54, 115, 130, students will use these to come up with their solutions. The variations of equations and the strategies employed by each student are infinite and can produce a wide array of results.

Accommodations & Modifications:

One of the key features of “Get as Close as You Can” is its adaptability. Tailoring this activity to suit the diverse learning needs and abilities in a math classroom is simple and effective. Here are a few modifications and accommodations:

  1. Students who struggle with multiplication and division: For these students, restrict the game to using only addition and subtraction. Providing multiplication tables or calculators as additional support can also be an excellent way to help these students engage in the activity without feeling overwhelmed.
  2. Advanced students: For those who find the basic game too simple, add an element of complexity by introducing decimals or fractions. This modification can provide a more substantial challenge, fostering deeper thinking and engagement.

Expanding on Gameplay with Examples:

The game starts with a simple equation, but as students become more comfortable, it evolves into a challenging mental exercise. As they develop their skills, they can creatively combine operations, opening up numerous strategies to reach the target number. To illustrate, let’s revisit our previous example where the target number was 1350, and the numbers provided were 10, 26, 54, 115, 130. A few scenarios could be:

  1. One student might multiply 10 with 130 to get 1300, then add 50 (by multiplying 10 and 5 from 54), to get a final number of 1350. Perfect hit!
  2. Another student might choose to multiply 115 by 10, then subtract 150 (by multiplying 130 by something over 1) to get 1000, then add 350 (multiplying 10 by 35).
  3. A third student, to challenge themselves further, might attempt to use fractions or decimals if allowed. They could multiply 26 by 50 (using half of 100 from 10*10), then add 50 (by multiplying 10 by 5), to reach a total of 1350.

Connecting to Common Core State Standards (CCSS):

This activity aligns seamlessly with several CCSS, providing students with the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding and ability to apply the Standards of Mathematical Practice. Here are some specific standards this activity could address:

  1. CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.3.OA.B.5: Applying properties of operations as strategies to multiply and divide.
  2. CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.4.OA.A.3: Solving multistep word problems posed with whole numbers and having whole-number answers using the four operations.
  3. CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.5.NBT.B.5: Fluently multiply multi-digit whole numbers using the standard algorithm.
  4. CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.6.EE.A.2.C: Evaluating expressions at specific values of their variables.

Teaching math should not be a mundane task. With activities like “Get as Close as You Can,” we can transform mathematics education into an engaging, inclusive, and stimulating endeavor that encourages students to step out of their comfort zones and embrace the challenge. By focusing on critical thinking, strategy, and adaptability to various learning needs, this mathematical activity exemplifies a creative teaching approach that promotes an enduring understanding of math operations, proving that mathematics can, indeed, be a thrilling adventure.

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