WEEK THREE – Activity TWO – More Word Problems

Let’s Play ‘Alpha Beta Gamma’.

We like this game because it encourages cooperation without leading to too much competition between groups. Since the composition of each group changes constantly, students don’t feel overly tied to the scores of a given group.


  1. This activity can use Project Power Point slides (attached below), or similar written on the classroom white board.
  2. Slide One – In groups of 4, have each student choose a Greek letter: Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta. This affects only the rotation order, so it should not be a difficult decision.
  3. Have students use small white boards or regular paper to record their answers.
  4. Pass out a handful of unit cubes (rainbow blocks) or similar to each student.
  5. Slide Two – Explanation of Points:
    • One point for everyone in the group trying.
    • One point for the correct answer.
    • One point for excellent teamwork.
    • One point for a good model.
    • One extra point for the group with the clearest solution.(optional)
    • Show me each person’s work for full credit.
    • Final score (all group scores added together) ÷ 6  = number of blocks in the recess jar. (Class gets extra recess when the jar is full)
  6. Slide Three – Word problem. Project or write up:
    • Tommy spent 1/3 of his birthday money on a baseball glove and  1/12  of  his money on a baseball. If Tommy had $70 left, how much did he have to start with?  (solution attached).
    • Let students work in silence for at least half a minute – until you notice some have solved it already.
    • Let students work together in their groups for a couple minutes. Each group must agree on a solution, and all 4 students must be able to explain it.
    • Circulate, but don’t give solutions/hints. Groups should depend on each other. When a group says they’re finished, ask a random member of the group to explain the model and solution briefly. If their answer is wrong, send them back to work. If the answer is correct, give the group points according to the system above. In our experience, the groups usually figure out the solution, given they’re working together. If one group finishes early, they can put their model (not their answer) on the board while other groups finish. Record the points on the board, under each group’s number. If all the groups solved it, there is no need to review the solution.
  7. Slide Four: Rotating. Ask the Betas to stand up Screen Shot 2018-09-26 at 8.40.48 PM(to make sure each group knows who their Beta is). Then have the Betas rotate one table group clockwise, taking their paper / white boards with them.
  8. Repeat Steps #6 and #7 above through slide #12. By the end, every person in the group has rotated, but in different directions. This mixes up the groups and provides anonymity and decreases competition. When done, have everyone return to their original seats and clean up, while you add up the points earned by the whole class. We add marbles to the recess jar, but any reward is useful.

We find that the game format, movement and reward work together to lower the anxiety students might feel around word problems.


1. Power point slides: h AlphaBetaGamma

2.  Answer to word problems: h Alpha_Beta_AnswerKey




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