Based on personal experience as a high school math teacher, it is tricky deciding what math content to have students work on with a substitute teacher present. All too often a substitute teacher has little ideas or confidence on how to present new math concepts, be it Algebra I or Trigonometry. This article shares a data gathering, math activity that is perfect for days when a substitute teacher will be in the class.

First of all, this math activity requires either a textbook or supplemental workbook. Teachers do not typically rely upon workbook pages as best practice, however, when a substitute teacher is present workbooks are helpful due to their convenience.

Secondly, this math activity will help determine students’ retention of various topics. It will shed light upon topics students might not recall. Similarly, if particular topics are well received, then a teacher discovers he or she will not need to review it for long.

The actual activity is simple – another plus for a substitute teacher. Ahead of time, choose particular problems (ex. Numbers 1, 5, and 8). It is handy to organize the problems’ answers into a grid for organization and grading ease. From each section of a textbook, or from each page in a workbook, students complete those three questions only. If the student does not know how to do the problem, he or she leaves it blank. If that problem number does not appear on that page, then the student draws a large “X” in the box.

Making this activity into a competition increases student involvement. For example, students might receive 20 points for working hard all hour on the project. Then to up the stakes, offer an incentive like candy or extra credit for the one person who completes the most problems correctly. To keep the competition fair, allow students to only work during class. Collecting their work as a “ticket out the door” when they leave class works well to monitor that process. In addition, students enjoy not having homework.

It is possible to extend this project to more than one day as needed. On the last day of the activity, students trade and grade the answers. The teacher tallies successful answers onto a spreadsheet, helping with some math data gathering. It becomes apparent very quickly as to which students retain their math skills long term and which students forget the math concepts quickly. All it takes is looking at the summaries and seeing which squares of the answer grid are left blank.

This math project may seem on the simple end, but remember that it is designed as a filler for when a substitute takes over the classroom. With some ingenuity, however, it could be modified into a more rigorous formative assessment at the teacher’s discretion.

**What do you think of this math activity? Do you think it would work in a high school math classroom? Please comment below.**

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