David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.
Sixth Grade Percentage Games
After spending so much time on the challenge of fractions and decimals, it's easy to neglect percentages. But in many ways, percentages are the most common of the three in everyday life. Signs saying 75% off are ever present on Black Friday, whereas you're certainly not going to see a sign saying, '0.75 of the regular price'. When it comes time to teach percentages, we can help students stay focused and engaged with some games and activities. Check out a few of these ideas.
Students don't always find math problems exciting, but turn it into a competition or add a timer to boost the excitement. In this game, students work in pairs and practice both percentages and estimating skills. Give each pair a set of index cards with various fractions on them - both regular fractions, and shaded representations of fractions (like pies with certain proportions of slices highlighted).
The goal is to announce an estimate of the percentage the fraction represents as quickly as possible. The first student to say the answer gets a point, but both students get to make a guess before checking the answer. If neither is correct, whoever is closest wins the point instead.
Percentages Treasure Hunt
All kids love a good treasure hunt. Help them learn at the same time by expressing the clues in percentages. For example, one clue could be, 'walk exactly 65% of the way from the starting point to the coat rack, then turn left'. Give students tape measures, and let them calculate their way to the treasure. Students can work in teams and compete to figure it out first, or alternatively, you can give each student a different set of instructions so that they're not tripping over one another.
Real Life Percentages
This one is more of an introductory activity than anything that teaches skills with percentages themselves, but it's still a fun way to introduce the topic. Start by drawing out a jumbo-sized number line, either on a large roll of paper or on a long whiteboard. Show key percentages like 10%, 20% and so on, up to 100%. The number line should stretch most of the way across the room - the longer the better. Then find yourself a list of statistics or facts about the world that are in percentage form. Facts that will be interesting to sixth graders are ideal.
The way this game works is that you call out a question, whose answer is the fact you looked up. For example, you could call out, 'What percentage of the mass of a rainforest ecosystem is made up of plants?' Students then have a go at guessing what the answer is, by positioning themselves along the number line. Finally, you read out the real answer and blow their minds.
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