I think every teacher can agree that retention of math skills is the biggest goal we have for students. After all, it’s hard to make significant progress in the curriculum if students aren’t retaining information. Hands-on math activities are my go-to for improving retention! Most students remember and can apply the information longer when they play an active role in the construction of their learning.
We know that once students are outside of the classroom, they will be responsible for any learning they acquire. It’s important, then, that we encourage students to practice taking charge of their own learning while they are in the classroom! One way to do that is through hands-on math activities, like Solve the Room.
It might feel daunting to come up with hands-on math activities without adding a ton of prep work (and stress) to your plate. But I want to show you how you can bring movement into the classroom through a simple, stress-free strategy.
What are “Solve the Room” Activities?
Solve the Room activities allow students to practice math in this way that gets them up and moving, which is a great change of pace for a lot of classrooms. Don’t worry – you don’t need a large or spacious room! Students move around the room solving problems and writing them down on a recording sheet.
Solve the Room can also incorporate student choice, if you want to add in that component. You can let students solve the problems in any order they choose, which is a huge benefit of hands-on math activities like this! There is a lot of flexibility in how you implement it and the range of freedom that you give to students.
As far as set up goes, it couldn’t be easier. First, you’ll print out the pages with the math problems. I recommend using cardstock or laminating if you have time. Next, cut out each card (there are four to a page). Then, place the cards around the room or tape the cards to the walls. You can get as creative as you want with this. Depending on your room layout and student behavior, you could tape the cards in fun “hiding” spots. But that is completely optional.
Once the cards are displayed, give students a clipboard and have them walk around the room to find the cards. When students find a card, they will solve it and write their answer on the recording sheet. I give every student a recording sheet, even if they are working with a partner or in a group. It just adds a layer of accountability. If you have students finish early, ask them to create a new word problem that has the same answer as a previously answered problem.
Here’s how it works:
✅ Print, cut, and hang the math problems around the room.
✅ Give each student a clipboard and recording sheet (that’s included!)
✅ Students will walk around the room to solve the math problems.
Solve the Room Activities – Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve never heard of Solve the Room Activities. What are they?
Have you ever heard of Write the Room? It’s a twist on that. Students walk around the room to solve math questions. You’ll tape the problems around the room and students will walk around with a recording sheet to answer the problems.
How much prep is required?
Very little prep! Just print, cut out the cards (4 to a page), and hang around the room.
Should this be used during whole group or small group time?
It’s totally up to you! My favorite way to use Solve the Room activities are during whole group time. All students are walking around solving problems while I conference individually with students. I think this is my favorite because students are so engaged that I never get interrupted! Another favorite is to use the cards at a station during small group time. Students can work through the fun problems as a group instead of walking around the room (they can easily serve as task cards, too!).
What if my kids can’t be trusted out of their seats?
I understand the struggle with this! Model the correct way to do the activity, then let a few students model the incorrect way to move around the room. While they’ll have fun with this part, it will also stick as a reminder to behave appropriately. Give lots of positive reinforcement to students who are doing the activity correctly. Soon, you won’t have to worry about behavior at all!
What kind of students will this help?
I’ve used Solve the Room activities with all kind of students: above level, below level, on-level, ADHD, ADD, Autistic, Gifted, Neurotypical, High Energy, Low Energy, ODD, the list goes on and on and on..
Solve the Room Activities
If you’re ready to try the Solve the Room strategy in your classroom, check out the ready-to-go, seasonal resources I’ve created below.
#1 New Year’s
In the New Year’s Solve the Room, students will practice rounding whole numbers. They’ll be rounding to the nearest ten, hundred, and thousand place value, which will allow you to scaffold for your particular students as needed. The resource brings in the New Year’s theme with holiday clipart to match the problem to their recording sheet!
#2 Valentine’s Day
This Valentine’s Day Solve the Room bundle includes activities for 10 different math topics! You’ll find practice for 2-digit by 2-digit multiplication, basic multiplication facts, long division, multiplying decimals, dividing fractions, and more. This is a powerhouse bundle of math reviews!
#3 St. Patrick’s Day
Bring some holiday fun to your math class with the St. Patrick’s Day Solve the Room activity.
In this resource, students will solve problems on 2-digit subtraction with regrouping. This can be a really challenging skill, and one that often takes the back burner with upper elementary and middle school students. Practicing it through a hands-on math activity will keep the skills fresh in students’ minds.
#4 March Basketball
You know that big basketball tournament every March? Why not celebrate in the classroom! The March Basketball Solve the Room is a slam dunk resource that covers twelve different math topics. Students will be so engaged with the basketball-themed cards that they may even forget they’re working.
Spring is the perfect time to incorporate hands-on math activities because students are already prone to the wiggles during this time of year. Get students up and move around during their math practice with this Spring-themed Solve the Room resource. They’ll review twelve different math topics, making this a great activity for test prep. You’ll find math problems for various decimal, fraction, division, and multiplication skills!
You can explore all of the Solve the Room holiday bundles and activities here! Solve the Room activities are a great way to keep students engaged, hold students accountable for their learning, and encourage some independence. My students have always loved them, and I really appreciate how simple they are to incorporate into our daily classroom schedule.