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Given a series of numbers and an answer, students figure out which math operations must be performed.
math, addition, subtraction, multiplication, operations, equation
This activity is the "Tuesday Puzzle" -- part of a week of "puzzling activities" that comprise the Lesson Planning article A Puzzle A Day Provides Practice That Pays. This fun activity -- easily adapted to any grade level -- makes a great "bellringer" activity for settling down students at the start of the school day, immediately after lunch, or as a transition after any other activity.
For this puzzling activity, provide students with four quick math equations that provide practice in basic operations. Students must replace the asterisk (*) in each equation with the sign for a math operation (for example, + for addition, - for subtraction, x for multiplication, or / for division). Some sample problems appear below. The correct answers appear in italics.
A Sample Puzzle
Education World has created A Year of "Operation: Math" Puzzles for you to use -- one group for each Tuesday during the school year. Each week, write one group of four equations on the board or a chart for all students to see. Students study the equations and determine which math operations must be performed to arrive at the solution stated in each equation.
Below see a sample of four equations you might provide for students to solve. The correct answers for the four problems appear immediately below the problems. If this puzzle is too easy or difficult for your students, see instructions below for adapting the "Operation: Math" activity for your grade level.
(6 * 4) * 12 = 12
(7 * 3) * (4 * 1) = 26
(4 * 2) * (4 * 3) = 24
(6 * 5) * (9 * 2) = 19
(6 x 4) - 12 = 12
(7 x 3) + (4 + 1) = 26
(4 / 2) x (4 x 3) = 24
(6 - 5) + (9 x 2) = 19
Scoring the Puzzle
You might track students' Operation: Math progress: Award a star for each equation a student correctly completes, or award a star to each student who gets 3 of the week's 4 equations correct. Give a prize to the student who gets the most correct answers each month, quarter, or semester.
Adapting "Operation: Math" for Your Grade Level
All the Year of "Operation: Math" Puzzles require students to use the four math operations -- addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Because they involve all four operations, they are probably best used with students in grades 4 and above.
Teachers in grades 1 to 3 easily can adapt this activity using only simple addition and subtraction operations. For example, first and second graders can solve the following simple equations:
6 * 4 = 10
5 * 2 = 3
6 + 4 = 10
5 - 2 = 3
Second and third graders might solve the following simple equations:
(5 * 1) * 6 = 10
(5 * 2) * (2 * 1) = 4
(5 - 1) + 6 = 10
(5 - 2) + (2 - 1) = 4
Teachers in upper grades can adapt the activity to include negative integers, fractions, decimals or other math concepts they might be teaching.
For additional practice, arrange students into teams and set up a classroom competition using the online SpeedMath Deluxe game.
Track students' progress from week to week. Over time, their skill at this activity should improve. If you are tracking student performance on each of the five puzzle-of-the-day activities that comprise this puzzle-a-day plan, students are bound to achieve success on one or more of the different types of puzzles.
Lesson Plan Source
MATHEMATICS: Number and Operations
GRADES Pre-K - 2
NM-NUM.PK-2.2 Understand Meanings of Operations and How They Relate to One Another
NM-NUM.PK-2.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES 3 - 5
NM-NUM.3-5.2 Understand Meanings of Operations and How They Relate to One Another
NM-NUM.3-5.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES 6 - 8
NM-NUM.6-8.2 Understand Meanings of Operations and How They Relate to One Another
NM-NUM.6-8.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES 9 - 12
NM-NUM.9-12.2 Understand Meanings of Operations and How They Relate to One Another
NM-NUM.9-12.3 Compute Fluently and Make Reasonable Estimates
GRADES K - 4
NM-ALG.PK-2.1 Understand Patterns, Relations, and Functions
GRADES 3 - 5
NM-ALG.3-5.1 Understand Patterns, Relations, and Functions
GRADES 6 - 8
NM-ALG.6-8.1 Understand Patterns, Relations, and Functions
GRADES 9 - 12
NM-ALG.9-12.1 Understand Patterns, Relations, and Functions
Find more great puzzle ideas in this week's Lesson Planning article, A Puzzle A Day Provides Practice That Pays.