State Test Prep, “Pi Games”-Style
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
Survey any 6th grade class in the nation and I am positive they will all agree that The Hunger Games series is awesome. Ironically, it was almost exactly three years ago, on my inaugural visit to Scholastic headquarters for Top Teacher training, that I was given a copy of this soon-to-be bestseller. Upon returning home, I unpacked, put the book on my desk, and walked away. Two months later, desperate for something to read, I picked up the book, and 48 hours later, I was hooked. I knew that it was destined to become gigantic . . . and so did Scholastic.
This title has so affected my students that when the final rounds of classroom test prep came up, we decided to create an event that would include both 5th and 6th grades in high-interest math review, and voila, the first annual Pi Games were born.
The Pi Games
Providing test prep in a unique way was the goal. With my students’ help, we achieved a glorious event. We kicked off the Pi Games with a morning announcement on our closed circuit television station from Effie Trinket (who also happens to be my teaching partner, Claire Caruthers). She briefly announced that she had arrived from the Capitol to sort the 5th and 6th grade students into districts for the first annual Pi Games. Effie concluded by stating, “May the numbers be ever in your favor,” and the screen went to black. From my classroom, I could hear screams of excitement from our long hall of classrooms. She then went to each classroom with a large glass fishbowl and sorted the students by districts (our version of reaping).
The next day, students met outside on the playground about 50 yards away from the cornucopia until the opening gong sounded. Around the cornucopia were bags with large numbers on the outside (representing the districts) with tools they would need for the math problems.
At the sound of the gong, children raced to the cornucopia to locate their district’s bag of supplies. From there they ran to the tennis courts where tables were set up with various math problems for them to solve.
At ten-minute intervals, “sponsors” would throw in parachutes with math equations on them to assist in solving the problems on the tables.
The teams had only 45 minutes from start to finish. Points were awarded for every correct answer and tallied on a score sheet. The top three winning districts were announced that afternoon. The following day the top three districts would compete in a pie eating contest and a recitation of the digits of pi to determine a grand winner.
Overall, the students had a blast and got in some stellar math review before the state standardized test. Next year 6th grade will host this event on Pi Day. T-shirts from this year’s event, designed by one of the 6th grade students, are already a mandatory part of next year’s event.
While I realize that our game is modeled very loosely on the novel, The Hunger Games, it was still a huge success. Because the students connect so closely to the book, the event they created meant the world to them and will for years to come be their legacy. I believe the motivation to make this happen demonstrates the power of literature across content areas. The sheer adoration of this novel encouraged both math-savvy and math-reluctant students to have fun and really dive into mathematics.
Note that the students are all making the pi sign with their hands!