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A K–8 resource to support deep comprehension of math skills and concepts

February 13, 2020 3-5-operations-and-algebraic-thinking, k-2-operations-and-algebraic-thinking

29 Beach Ball Math Fluency Practice Activities for Grades K–6

It doesn't matter if outside the classroom windows there's wintry snow, spring showers, or falling fall leaves... math activities that remind students of summertime fun are ALWAYS a good idea. In this article, you’ll learn how to lead K–6 students to higher-level thinking with Beach Ball Math Fluency Practice Activities. Plus, download and print the 29 FREE fluency practice activities now.

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Math Fluency Practice Activities

Beach ball fluency practice is one of the most enjoyable activities I do with my students. These simple exercises get students out of their seats and engaged in meaningful math practice. In fact, the day after we do beach ball fluency activities, my students always ask, “Can we do that activity again today?”

Math activities that remind students of summertime fun are ALWAYS a good idea!

Teachers can use the Beach Ball Math Fluency Practice Activities to ensure that students have (or are working to obtain) the three necessary components of mathematical fluency:

  1. Accuracy, or correctness
  2. Efficiency, or easily and quickly carrying out a strategy
  3. Flexibility, or using more than one approach

Materials and Set-up

To implement the Beach Ball Math Fluency Practice Activities in the classroom you will need a six-panel beach ball (I ordered a box of 12 beach balls for under $24 online), some painter’s tape, a permanent marker, and the free downloads available with this post. The K–6 printable downloads outline four fluency activities at each grade level with a fifth activity for the Grade 1 classroom (totaling 29 fluency activities).

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Although most of the fluency activities available for download require symbols to be written on the ball, some of the activities can be used by just tossing the ball around. Once you have your beach ball(s), be sure to label it (or them) with the four operation symbols and two question marks. Each of the six-panels will have a symbol. There are two ways you can do this:

  1. Use a permanent marker to write the symbols directly on the ball.
  2. Use your painter’s tape and permanent marker to label the six-panel beach ball with the four operation symbols and two question marks. By writing the operation symbols and question marks on the painter’s tape, you’ll be able to use the beach ball for other activities in the classroom!

Most of the activities are focused on the Number and Operations (base ten and fractions) and Operations and Algebra standards. From Kindergarten to Grade 6, the topics include:

  • Adding and subtracting within 5, 20, and 100
  • Skip counting
  • Constructing numbers using place value up to 100 and 1000, tenths, hundredths and thousandths
  • Generating simple word problems
  • Multiplying and dividing
  • Naming fractions and decimal fractions
  • Naming factors
  • Counting sequences other than skip counting
  • Decomposing fractions
  • Generating expressions with two operations
  • Powers of ten

As you can see, there are many topics you can address and ways that you can use a beach ball to promote math fluency in your classroom!

How to Get Started

The best thing to do when first starting to use beach ball math is to teach the whole class together. Have students stand in a circle and explain that they are going to practice their number sense skills with a fluency beach ball. The objective of the game is for students to accurately, efficiently, and flexibly provide a number or number sentence based on each individual activity.

To teach the whole class how to play, and to set the norms for the routine, have the class do a trial run of the activity by skip counting by twos or fives. The ball and the activities should move quickly around the class. If things are moving too slowly, the activity is too hard. For instance, to skip count, the teacher should say, “Let’s count by twos, starting with zero” and toss the ball to the first student. The student quickly says, “Zero” and tosses the ball to another student. That student would say, “Two” and continue the process. I usually tell students not to toss or give the ball to the student next to them as I want to avoid the ball being passed around the circle. (If the ball ends up being passed around the circle in order, students on the other side of the circle tend to check out until it is their turn.)

After you have taught the whole class to play, you can use beach ball math activities in a number of ways. The optimal size for beach ball math is groups of six to eight students. There are many different possibilities of how to use them:

  • Multiple Small Groups—Split the class up into four or five teams, each with their own beach ball. Let them play in small groups simultaneously
  • Learning Station—Set up a station with directions cards and a beach ball and let students play as one of many activities in the day’s rotation
  • Movement Break—In our school we are taking more movement breaks and this is one way to get the class up and on their feet for a few minutes while keeping an academic focus
  • After School Programs—Since you can play a wide range of games across the grade span of an elementary or middle school, these activities work well in mixed-level programs, as after-school programs tend to be
  • Warm Up Activity—Use a beach ball activity to activate students’ prior knowledge. For instance, if you are working on place value as part of your curriculum for the day, you could use a place value beach ball activity as the opening activity
  • Formative Assessment—If you are working on a topic, such as skip counting, you could use a beach ball activity to assess who is able to skip count and who is struggling. You’ll get a sense of it pretty quickly if the student has to think while holding onto the ball as the students toss the ball around the room

In the download, there are four activities for each grade level. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to come up with your own activities as well. Since the activities are organized by grade level, you might want to take a look at the activities in the grade levels above and below where you are working. This will expose you to the various ways you can use the beach ball to provide access to the math curriculum.

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For instance, particularly at the beginning of a school year, Grade 2 activities would be appropriate for early third graders while the Grade 3 activities themselves might not have been addressed in the curriculum. By the same token, you might find some activities a grade level above that might challenge some of your high flyers. Beach ball activities offer a great opportunity for differentiation when used in a learning center/stations activity. If you have organized your groups by achievement level for the day, then each group can do a beach ball activity that is at the right level for them to meet their needs.

In Summary

Make math a little more fun for students with Beach Ball Math Fluency Practice Activities. Download all of the grade level activities and explore the many ways that you are able to use a beach ball to teach math.