Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The Math Poet

Sharla Shults
Bay District Schools


Are you a math poet? Make math problems unique and interesting! Engage students in an active setting solving problems relating to real-world experiences incorporating rhythmic lines. A catchy line might save you time when solving a real-life problem!


Describes, analyzes and generalizes relationships, patterns, and functions using words, symbols, variables, tables and graphs.


-Eight colored file folders (may all be the same color or different colors)
-Eight decks of 10 problem cards each, 2 Whiny Cards, and 2 Bonus Cards (see Associated File)
-Eight bells, or similar noisemakers, or flags
-32 number stickers for chairs
-Small number cards numbered from 1 to 10
-Container for problem number cards
-Medium-sized seat identification number cards numbered according to number of students participating
-Container for seat number cards
-Eight large plastic bags (gallon size)
-One calculator per table/station
-Four pencils per table/station
-One sheet of scratch paper for each student
-Activity sheets, assessments, and scoring tools (see Teacher Preparation, Steps #9-10)


1. Duplicate cards using templates provided (see Associated File). Laminate sheets if you so desire. Cut into playing cards and divide into stacks of 10 cards for distribution among 8 groups of 4 students. Duplicate 2 copies each of the Whiny Cards and Bonus Cards.
2. Make small number cards for problems numbering from 1 to 10 and place in container.
3. Make number cards for seats numbering from 1 to 32 (or appropriate number for students participating in the activity) and place in different container.
4. Secure folders (one for each team).
5. Set up eight tables, or group stations, of four students for the activity. Each table, or station, is clearly marked by team number. The file folders work great here. Label each folder designating Team #1, Team #2, Team #3, etc. Stand the folders on the tables and secure with tape. When the competition is over, the folders are used to hold the group work.
6. Label each seat with a number corresponding to the number of students that are participating and arrange in random order.
7. Make flags. Flags can be made out of old file folders and round clothespins. Cut the folder along the fold into two parts. Fold each side of the folder into quarters and slide onto the clothespin. Mark each flag with the team identification number and place one per table, or station.
8. Prepare large zipper bags for each table containing 1 calculator, 4 pencils, and a bell, or similar noisemaker for the purpose of signaling completion of a problem to each table, or station. Optional: Eliminate the noisemaker and instruct the students to wave the flag.
9. Download and duplicate activity sheets found in the associated file:
a) Challenging Math Poetically Role Assignments, one per group
b) The Math Poet Score Sheet, one per student
c) Solutions Work Sheet, one per student
10. Download, print and duplicate the following documents found in the associated file to be used in formative assessments:
a) The Math Poet Critera Checklist for Assessment, one per student
b) Information Sheet for Assessment of The Math Poet, one per student
c) The Math Poet Assessment, one per student
d) The Math Poet Assessment Answer Key, one copy for teacher use
11. Set up a table in a convenient location in the classroom displaying the following materials:
a) Eight plastic bags containing a calculator, 4 pencils, and a bell, or similar noisemaker (optional)
b) Eight copies of The Math Poet Score Sheet (see Associated File)
c) Copies of the Solutions Work Sheet for each student (see Associated File)
d) Eight stacks of 10 cards each face down
12. Make transparencies of problems for display during The Math Poet. (See Associated File.)
13. Optional: Make a transparency of a sample poetic math problem.

Before duplicating any materials, please read the following:

1) Playing card templates: When duplicating the playing cards, reproduce from one-sided to two-sided with the number on the front and a problem on the back.
2) Score Sheet: Point values are assigned according to their difficulty factor and are used for competition purposes only. These are not values for grading purposes!
3) Solutions Work Sheet: When duplicating The Math Poet Solutions Work Sheet, reproduce from one-sided to two-sided. This saves paper and eliminates copying the same paper twice.


Day 3 of the mini-unit Challenging Math Poetically.
Note: Tables and graphs are not addressed or assessed in this lesson.

1. As students enter the room on the day of the challenge, instruct each to draw a number card from a container for the designated seat during the activity. (Step #3 of Teacher Preparation)

2. Instruct students to find the seat number that matches the number on their number card. Monitor students carefully to avoid the changing of numbers or swapping of seats. Inform students that this method provides random seating.

3. Once students are seated in groups of four (see Step #5 of Teacher Preparation for special instructions), return the students' papers from the lesson Lively Math and go over concepts from the previous day's activity.

4. Explain to students that today they are working as a team and each member assumes one of the following four roles: 1) Team Manager, 2) Calculator, 3) Recorder, and 4) Signaler (flag waver). Distribute a copy of Challenging Math Poetically Role Assignments sheet to each group (see Associated File). Inform students that role assignments change each day with no team member repeating the same role in the duration of the mini-unit. This document remains in the team folder at the end of each day. (See Extensions for optional activity.)

5. Ask students, “What part of mathematics do you most often try to avoid or invariably leave out of your homework assignments?” Of course, their response usually is WORD PROBLEMS! Tell students from the beginning that this is an integral part of the study of both mathematics and language arts which is critical to passing the FCAT. Emphasize the importance of both reading and understanding the problem to be solved and provide examples of problem solving using Think, Solve, and Explain format! (See Weblinks for the link to FCAT test items and performance task specifications, which provides information and sample problems.)

6. Engage students in the pre-game Skill Drill Warm-Up Activity (see Associated File for activity sheet to be reproduced as a transparency). This takes approximately 5 – 10 minutes to quickly review translating words into symbols and writing equivalents.

7. Present objective to students. Review the standards and Goal 3 Standard(s) that are addressed in this lesson. Distribute copies of The Math Poet Student Criteria Checklist for Assessment, discuss the expectations, and go over the team activity in short description. Tell students to keep the expectations in a safe place for future reference.

8. Explain NO WHINING! If a team receives the Whiny Card, all points are lost that have been accrued to that point. This card is given for complaining, disruptive behavior, or non- participation. The Bonus Card is given when the teacher recognizes exceptional teamwork! This card adds 3 points to the total group score! Each table is eligible to receive the Bonus Card only once. If a team receives two Whiny Cards, it is disqualified from the competition and cannot earn points, but must continue working all problems.

9. With student assistance of the Team Manager from each group, distribute plastic bags to each table/station.

10. With student assistance of the Recorder, provide a copy of The Math Poet Score Sheet (see Associated File) to each student. Inform each student to print the names of all four members on The Math Poet Score Sheets with their assigned roles. Designate the Recorder to be responsible for keeping accurate scores during the competition. Each team member updates the individual score sheets at the end.

11. Distribute The Math Poet Solutions Work Sheet (see Associated File and note at the end of Teacher Preparation) to each student and explain the following working modes.
1) Think mode: What is the problem asking?
2) Solve mode: Equations and numerical computations.
3) Explain mode: Description of the procedures involved in finding the solution. Inform students that all work/computations must be completed inside the boxes!

12. Place a stack of 10 cards numbered from 1 to 10 faces down on each table. Each card contains a poetic math problem on the back. (See Associated File.)

NOTE: The associated file contains student-created problems from the original game. These may be duplicated and reproduced for the challenge.

13. Before the games begin, have the container containing the numbers 1 to 10 (see Teacher Preparation Step #2) in hand. Select one student in the class to draw and call out a random number chosen from the container. The number symbol (#) on the work sheet is the designated location for students to write the problem number in the order as it is called. Pencils down.


14. THINK mode: Use The Math Poet Problems transparency (see Associated File) and display the random problem drawn on the overhead. Read aloud.
SOLVE mode: When the time is called to begin, instruct each group to turn over the corresponding card at their table, pick up their pencil and begin solving the problem in the appropriate box on their Solutions Work Sheets. Show all work!
EXPLAIN mode: The group finishing first rings the bell (or noisemaker) or waves the flag provided at the table to be given the opportunity to address the class with their solution*. The group then selects one team member to present the solution. Answers only are not accepted! Sufficient explanation and correct answer are required in order to win the points.

*NOTE: An alternative method in the Explain mode would be to have team numbers from 1 to 8 in a bowl. Give the students a time limit to solve each problem. Call stop, pencils down, at the end of the allotted time and draw a team number from the bowl. A member of that team is selected to explain the problem to the class. If the problem is incorrect, then another team may raise its flag at this time and have the opportunity to explain and earn the points. Each number drawn is not replaced until every team has been given one opportunity to explain and earn points.

15. At this time, all pencils must be down. One student works the problem on the overhead or board and explains how the solution is found. Allow a maximum of 60 seconds. If the solution and procedure are correct, the team is awarded the assigned number of points and the next problem is drawn. If the solution is incorrect, the next group to finish is given the same opportunity to present its solution. This procedure continues until all 10 problems are completed. Once a student has explained a problem, that student cannot explain again until all team members have participated in the explanation process.

16. Monitor team presentations to ensure completion within the time limit allowed. Also keep a record of the team member selected to present. That team member does not present again until all team members have had an opportunity.

17. Record group points on the score sheet, or appoint a student designee to help with the recording, only as they are earned. Each group’s Recorder is responsible for determining the total number of group points earned and counting any bonus points accrued. Tell students NOT to record points in the column designated individual points earned. This is completed during the next lesson, Statistically Lyrical (see Weblinks).

18. After the competition cycle is over, instruct students to staple their individual Solutions Work Sheets to The Math Poet Score Sheets that now serves as a cover sheet. The Recorder then removes the sign folder from the table, places the papers inside the folders, and turns in all work. Calculators, pencils, cards, and flags are placed in the plastic bags and returned to a designated area. (See Flow Chart in Challenging Math Poetically Mini-Unit Plan Overview.)

19. As a conclusion to The Math Poet, discuss with students the areas of difficulty. It is interesting to find that most errors are not mathematical at all. It is in the READING of the problem! Emphasize the importance of reading the problem completely and concentrating on answering the question asked! It is also interesting to note that not all individual score sheets within a group are the same. What does this suggest about cooperative learning? Emphasize that group activities involve working together and checking the accuracy of each other’s work to make sure everyone understands the concepts!

20. Following formative assessment (see Assessment section) keep documents in team folders to be returned the next day for statistics evaluation in the lesson, Statistically Lyrical. (See Extensions/Modifications.)


Check students' The Math Poet Solutions Work Sheets (see Associated File for solutions key) and formatively assess students’ ability to Generalize: Translate a problem correctly; Describe: Explain proper logical reasoning; and Analyze: Yield the correct evaluative solution and check the results by inspection. To be counted correct, the work and/or explanation and the right answer must both be evident and agree.

Provide feedback, indicating which problems and/or strategies are correct or incorrect and complete the mathematics portion of The Math Poet Student Criteria Checklist (see Associated File).

Formatively assess the students’ group work using the cooperative learning portion of The Math Poet Student Criteria Checklist (see Associated File).

Note: Tables and graphs are not addressed or assessed in this lesson.


Day 4 of the mini-unit Challenging Math Poetically is Statistically Lyrical at

The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, “Associated Files.” This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

Web Links

FCAT test item and performance task specifications provide information and sample problems.
Florida’s Test Item and Performance Specifications

Day 4 of the mini-unit Challenging Math Poetically
Statistically Lyrical

Complete 8-day mini-unit with which this lesson is associated
Challenging Math Poetically

Attached Files

Activity sheets, assessments, and scoring tools.     File Extension: pdf

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