The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Buzzing for Math

I recently read a professional text that had been highly recommended by a very good friend. I was excited to read the book because it was written by an educator who has received many accolades for his work and because my friend had given it such rave reviews. It did not take me long to read the book but I had one problem: I did not like it. At all. Which is why I am not going to say the name of the book or the name of the author.

There were a few good insights that I wanted to implement in my classroom practices, though. One of them was the idea of thoroughly pre-teaching museum exhibits before bringing students there for a field trip. The other was a simple game to facilitate math fluency.

The game has several names when I look online, but the most common one is just Buzz. The concept is simple: students take turns counting by a specific number and when they get to a specific multiple of another name, they say “buzz” instead of that number. For example, students start counting by 1s. When a student gets to a multiple of 3, he or she says “buzz.” So it would go like this: 1, 2, buzz, 4, 5, buzz, seven, eight, buzz, 10, 11 . . . and so on. In this case, if a student said a multiple of 3 instead of buzz she would be out. If he says buzz instead of a number, he is also out. If a student doesn’t know what number is up next, he or she is out.

There are ways to make this game more complex. I wanted to use this as a way to get students to think about common multiples. One way to do this is to make it a game to play at the very end of the day. After all the chairs were stacked and students’ belongings were packed, they gathered on the carpet and stood around the edges of it. I had them take turns counting by one number and buzzing on another. The first game was a practice round. We counted by 10s and buzzed on 100s. So it went 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, buzz, 110, 120, . . . and so on. Once the students had a sense of what we were doing, I made it more challenging: count by 2s, buzz on 7s. 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, buzz, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24, 26, buzz. . .  The last round we did was counting by 3s and buzzing on 5s. 3, 6, 9, 12, buzz, 18, 21, 24, 27, buzz . . .

Like I said, it is a simple game, but it keeps the students engaged and they have to pay attention to what numbers of being counted, whose turn`it is, and when their own turn will be. I am hoping that Buzz will become a regular feature of our end-of-day routines, along with Around the World. Today was pretty successful. Tomorrow we will use it again, but I will use my two 12-sided dice to determine what number we are counting by and what number we are buzzing on. Hopefully this will become another incentive for students to further master their math facts!


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