Middle School Math Enrichment Ideas
It can be challenging to find quality middle school math enrichment ideas. These activities contribute so much to your math classes that taking the time to find and use them is a wonderful way to make your classes that much better. To help you get started incorporating enrichment ideas into your curriculum, I have compiled a list of ideas and quality resources in this blog post.
Some great middle school math enrichment ideas are Fermi problems. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, a Fermi problem is a way to make rough but reasonable estimates about things we do not have complete information about and often when the actual answer is unknowable or unmeasurable. It might be as simple as how many grains of rice are in a 25-pound bag or as complex as how much does the temperature of a river rise because of the friction of going over a dam.
Not only do Fermi problems challenge our students to use their problem-solving skills, but they also encourage the further development of their math thinking and logic skills. They also can be fun and applicable to students’ daily lives. For further ideas on Fermi problems, check out this website.
Another great way to incorporate middle school math enrichment ideas into your curriculum is by asking students to think outside of the box as they demonstrate competency of a previously taught topic or skill. One way to do this is to use the RAFT technique. This writing technique asks students to take on an imaginary role and explain or demonstrate a given topic from that role’s point of view.
Here are a couple of great resources further explaining this concept:
Mathletes are often thought of as students who are particularly gifted in mathematics. This means that math contests are often overlooked as a great middle school math enrichment opportunity for all students, not just our math “rock stars.” These contests come in a wide variety of formats and topics, they range from local activities to ones with international participation, and their audiences might be anything from kindergarteners to graduate students. One thing all math contests have in common though is that they can be a fun way to challenge your students through competition, team spirit, and variety. If your school does not already have a competitive math team, you might look at these two resources to begin incorporating math contests into your curriculum.
Put on through the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, this contest is for students in grades 7 and 8. For a small fee, students at your school can test their maths skills against students from all over the world. Both participation and top performance are recognized and rewarded. If you would like to see some examples of previous contests, check out this link: Past Contests
With a mission to “Make math fun!” Caribou Contests offer math competitions on an international scale. Students in kindergarten through 12th grade can participate in the levelled competition, practicing for and competing in six contests throughout the school year. Check out their website for more information, to see sample tests, and to sign up.
Weekly Problem Solving
Weekly challenge questions can be another great option for incorporating middle school math enrichment into your curriculum. This is a great activity for group work, creative and logical thinking practice, and general math fun. While you can always design your own challenge questions, one great resource to look at is the University of Waterloo’s Problem of the Week program.
On this website, you can download the current week’s problem, see previous problems, and sign up to receive weekly problems in your inbox. Organized into themes, these problems are available for students in grades 3 – 12 and can be used as individual, group, or whole-class challenges. Pick the ones appropriate for your situation and use them to incorporate fun and challenge into your curriculum.
Use an iPad app like Educreations or another video creator such as Powtoon to create and film a math lesson for peers or a younger grade level. Students could also start a Math-focused YouTube channel and share these lessons.
STEM activities are also great middle school math enrichment activities. In these activities, students often don’t even realize that they are practicing their math thinking and reasoning skills as they work to complete tasks individually or in groups. Building straw bridges, pasta cars, and the egg drop are just some of the many, many fun and engaging STEM activities out there.
Rube Goldberg Machines
If you are unfamiliar with Rube Goldberg machines, the basic concept is the creation of an unnecessarily complicated machine to complete a relatively simple task. For a truly amazing example, check out the music video for OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass”. While students’ machines will be much simpler than the one created here, these machines are a great way to encourage students to be creative and unique as they solve problems in complex and silly ways.
Real-Life Math Assignments
Real-life math assignments are another great way to take middle school math enrichment ideas and make them fun as well as relevant to students’ everyday lives. Below are a couple of examples you might consider adding to your math curriculum.
This assignment is a metric unit rate final project. Students are given a real chocolate fudge recipe, prices from two different grocery stores, and asked to find the better buy for their employer “Sweetness Bakery”. Students will use their basic adding, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills as well as decimals, rates, and unit rates to solve all the math questions in this package. Measurements are in metric units.
In this resource, students must find the surface area and volume of different cylinders as well as the surface area of a living room. Students are asked to buy paint for their homes. They are given three different options and must decide which option is the best for them. This is an application task of a real-life cylinders scenario. Students will use their basic adding, subtracting, multiplication, division, and decimal skills as well as using the formula for surface area and volume of a cylinder to solve all the math questions in this package. Measurements are in metric units.
This assignment is a Pythagorean Theorem final project. Students are asked to figure out the dimensions of the deck railings they have to build. Students will use their basic adding, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills as well as decimals, perimeter, and Pythagorean Theorem to solve all the math questions in this package. Measurements are in metric units.
Research Careers in Math
As many a math teacher is fond of telling his or her students, math is a skill you will use for the rest of your life. And while it is true that math skills are something we often apply as we price compare at the grocery store or figure the way our team can win the ballgame, some careers use math much more heavily. By having students do math career research, you may open up a whole world of possible careers to your students. Here is one way to do this.
Help your students think purposely about their futures with this Career Exploration and Research Project. Students will get excited about career research by taking an online career quiz, then brainstorming possible career choices. Then they will follow a guided assignment process – brainstorming, research, career poster creation, and oral presentation with scheduled check-ins throughout the process to ensure project completion. Level and points-based assessment sheets are provided in this assignment.
I hope this blog post has given you some ideas to use with your middle school math classes.
Looking for a way to structure student responses to word problems? Check out the GRASS Method.