Math educators often face the challenge of making learning fun and interesting on a small budget. For sixth-grade math, several objectives can be taught using a variety of household items. Projects and games offer the benefits of engaging children without forcing a teacher to invest in expensive kits or fancy displays.

## Coordinate Graphing

Seek permission to utilize a large space, preferably a gymnasium floor. A roll of masking tape (preferably colored), permanent marker and a dark sheet or blanket are the only materials needed. Separate the space into two playing fields by dividing the area with a sheet or blanket. Construct a grid on the floor on each side of the blanket with 10 rows across and 10 rows down. Mark the X-axis and Y-axis by drawing over the tape lines that represent the axes with a permanent marker. Explain the listing of X-coordinates and Y-coordinates. Split the class into two teams and assign team captains. Instruct each team member to choose a coordinate point to stand on. Have the captains take turns calling out coordinate pairs. If a student is standing on the position called by the opposing team, the child is out. The first team whose members are all out loses the round.

## Order of Operations

The order of operations are first introduced in sixth grade, and it is often an adjustment for students who are accustomed to always solving number sentences from left to right. Explain that number sentences must be solved by first solving any operation that is enclosed in parentheses. Students must then find the product of any exponents in the problem, followed by completing all multiplication and division operations in order from left to right. Finally, complete any addition or subtraction steps in order from left to right to find the answer to the problem. Demonstrate the process of the upside-down V, so that as each step is completed, the number sentence becomes shorter, and the steps gradually narrow to one final number.

Have students replicate the process to create a visual aid. From a worksheet or textbook, students should choose a problem with every operation represented at least once. Students should solve the problem in large handwriting on a sheet of blank paper. When all steps are complete, students should cut apart each number. Using a hanger and string, students should re-assemble the problem by hanging each number in order and connecting the steps with string. For example, if the last step was 3 + 2, the following line would show string coming from the 3 and the 2 to connect at the number 5.

## Statistics

Students will practice finding the mean, median, range and mode while constructing graphs based on accurate survey data. Brainstorm potential survey topics with students, such as favorite cafeteria meals, types of pets, favorite subjects, sports participation and favorite weekend activities. Form groups and give a different topic to each group. Show students how to create a sample based on the class results for each topic and predict the grade-level or campus-wide response. Groups should create a survey to distribute to other classes.

When surveys are completed, help students prepare a presentation. Instruct them to present their findings by drawing a graph on poster board or an overhead transparency and calculate the average of the data by adding all the numbers and dividing by the total number of participants. Have students find the median of the results by putting them in order from greatest to least and identifying the middle number. Determine the range of responses by subtracting the smallest number from the largest number, and the number that appears most often, or the mode, of the information gleaned from the surveys.

## Geometry

After discussing sixth-grade geometry concepts, including perimeter, circumference, volume of cubes and rectangles and area calculation for quadrilaterals, triangles and circles, assign students to write a picture book featuring a shape as the main character. Brainstorm possible story settings, conflicts and adventures the shape might encounter in a fictional story. Provide grading criteria with requirements that the student must use at least 10 math vocabulary words and include a minimum of three different shapes with a formulaic calculation completed for each one. Students may use construction paper or cardboard and illustrate with markers, crayons or colored pencils. Host a reading day so students can share their stories with classmates.

#### References

- Science Buddies: Pure Mathematics Project Ideas
- ProTeacher: 6th grade math projects
- "The Greedy Triangle"; Marilyn Burnes; 1994

#### Photo Credits

- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images