{FREE} Middle School Back to School Math Challenge

Looking for a unique middle school back to school math activity to engage your students? This challenge can be easily adapted for kids in grades 6-8 or even high school and makes a great ‘math about me’ activity.

When it comes to the first days of school, I don’t like to waste time on non-math things. But those first few days are so important for establishing community, setting expectations and helping your students to envision what math class might look like this year. And I want them to be excited about what’s to come! So in order to have fun getting to know each other, while still reviewing math skills and getting kids talking and thinking outside the box, I created this ‘math about me’ challenge for back to school. This is a great middle school back to school math challenge and could even be used in high school, because it’s open ended and allows for creativity.

Middle School Math About Me: Writing Expressions

The purpose of this challenge is to help students think flexibly about math operations and expressions and look for different ways to express numbers.

Hopefully this will allow you to review key skills with them as well such as:

  • Exponents
  • Integers
  • Order of operations
  • Fractions & decimals operations
  • Square roots

The main goal is for students to write a numerical expression to represent different numbers about themselves. For example, how many people are in their family, how many pets they have, how many movies they’ve seen, etc.

But they will want to be creative with their expressions so they can try to stump their partners.

Setting Expectations with Some Examples

Before you set your kids loose on this challenge, you’ll want to talk through some examples and ideas with them to get their creative juices flowing. Depending on the age of your students, you may also want to set some parameters to be sure they don’t take the easy way out by writing an expression such as “2+2.” 😉

Here are some ideas in case you want to be more specific with your expectations:

  • Each expression must include 3 operations
  • At least one expression must include a square root (or exponents, etc.)
  • Two expressions must includes fractions or decimals

Or anything else you’d like your students to focus on as they come up with their expressions.

This might be especially helpful if you’re using this with high school students and you want to really challenge them.

Either way, coming up with unique ways to represent simple whole numbers such as 15 or 3 or even 0 will be a fun challenge for your students.

But the really fun part is when they share with a partner and try to figure out the answers for another student in the class!

Challenge Your Partner:

Once each student has an expression for each answer, have them stand up, walk across the room and trade papers with someone else (hopefully someone they don’t know very well).

They then try to correctly evaluate their partner’s expressions to learn about them and share about their family and/or their summer.

Another idea is to set them up ‘speed dating’ style. Have half the class sit in a row at their desks. Then have the other half pair up with someone to trade papers.

Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and let them solve as many of that partner’s expressions as they can. When the timer goes off, the rotate to the next partner and solve again!

Do this 4-5 times so students get in lots of practice and get the chance to partner up with several peers.

Quick note: If you’re planning to have students rotate, have them bring a small white board or blank piece of paper to solve the different expressions. If they write directly on the first partner’s page, when they rotate the next partner will see their work and solutions.

Included in the Middle School Math About Me Download:

This free download includes a ready to use version, with ‘math about me’ prompts already included.

But if you’d prefer to challenge your kids further, or use this as a homework assignment, there’s also a blank copy where kids can share their own numbers, as well as write expressions. Other ideas for this might include:

  • Number of extracurricular activities
  • Number of sports they play
  • Number on their jersey (if they play a sport)
  • Number of instruments they play
  • Number of video games they own
  • Number of aunts and uncles
  • Their age in months
  • How far they live from school (in miles)
  • Number of siblings

Because students will need to think of numbers to share that are meaningful to them as well as unique and creative expressions to represent each number, I suggest giving them this to take home.

Then your class time can be spent evaluating each other’s expressions and sharing about themselves and their ‘math about me’ numbers.

There are color and black and white versions of each page included.

There’s also a simple ‘teaching tips’ page with directions and ideas for using this with your students.

I hope this is a fun activity for your first day or first week of school!

Ready to try it out? Grab this middle school back to school math challenge by clicking the link below and grabbing it free in my shop.

{Click HERE to go to my shop and grab the Middle School Back to School Math Challenge!}

Looking for other back to school math ideas? Check out the freebies below:

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