During TMC13  I gave a brief presentation during the Friday afternoon My Favorites session about a stupid game I play with Pre Cal students. It should really be described as an instrument of torture.

Before I begin, let me say it was a tad intimidating presenting to the assembled crowd. I have fangirl crushes on a dozen or so people who were in the audience, so to speak live and in person to my Twitter stream was something else.

Setup is simple, create a game board: 


The left denotes participating groups. Then a column for however many class periods that will be participating. My desk groups are colors since index cards come in rainbow packs like that. Harry Potter themes are ok. 

This board appears on the first day of school. At random moments in the first few days, I'll spot groups points. At no point do I say anything about what I'm up to. In years passed, I've denied that anything has happened at all. 

Eventually they discover that they can earn points for good things like completing assignments, making interesting statements, provided well thought out answers, or participating well in a group activity. They also discover that points can be lost for being off task, disruptions, or spraying the haterade on another group. 

The competition resets every grading period, in my case six weeks. The goal is to get to 50 points. Typical results look like this: 


Not everyone gets 50. This score is entered in the gradebook. It counts the tiniest amount towards their grade (3-5%), but it by far is one of the most engaging activities that occur. 

There are no official rules. Give out points for whatever you want. Take them away for whatever you want. Often classroom management problems will solve themselves just by hovering my finger over a point total. 

Just a few random things I've done with this: 

  • on Mondays I use a random number generator to play bonus-bonus-deduction, the numbers that appear correspond to students in the room; if your number comes up, you win the prize, or anti-prize
  • I've created competitions with things like brain teasers or unit circle proficiency, handing out 10, 7, 5, 3, 1, 0 points to the finishers
  • Students have been willing to bet points on answers; one classes' yellow group put all their points on the line once, it did not end well
  • I will sometimes be a jerk and hand out fractional points (see 49.99 above) 
  • points can be awarded for enthusiasm related to receiving points
  • points can be awarded for making me laugh
  • points can be awarded for letting me pick on you
  • a student has randomly asked "can we have points?" and been rewarded, a student who tried 5 minutes later was denied

Points are frequent and points are rare. The kids are simultaneously frustrated and enthralled with this game. They think it's for their entertainment. In reality, I get the biggest kick out of it. 

AuthorJonathan Claydon