Da da da – Da da da – Math Basketball (my twist)

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As a lurker for the past few years, I have taken and tried different ideas from the math bloggers I have come across.  When I found Dan Meyer’s blog, I spent much time perusing his archives and came across an activity that has just made my classroom a crazy and exciting time.  Math Basketball.

I pretty much followed the script that Dan had laid out and …OMGosh…  it got crazy!  For two weeks after the game they were still talking about it and wanted to know when we would be playing it again.  This is the best review game that my students beg me to play.  Yes,  they beg me.

Over the past two years, I have modified and adapted the game to my needs.  Here are my particulars.


Pretty much Dan’s instructions.

1. Question bank of topics/standards we have been covering over the past few weeks or month.

2. Put the question up to the class.

3. Students answer via laptop/computer.  Each student must have laptop/ipad/computer to answer each question.

Here is where I have modified this.

Every student must answer.  My tool of use is  Socrative.  I have used Polleverywhere embedded into Keynote/Powerpoint slides, and it works well also.   But I use Socrative to deliver the questions to the students.  I can monitor when all the answers are in and it tells me how many got it wrong.  Depending on class size, here is how I score it:

0-5 wrong answers,  students get two shots.

6-9 wrong answers, students get one shot, teacher gets one shot.

10 or more wrong, teacher gets two shots.

This is for class size of about 27-30 students and you would need to modify scoring if smaller size.

4.  If they get shots, then I just start going around the room where each student must take a turn to shoot the nerf ball into the trash can.  Tape is placed on the carpet for 1, 2, 3,  and 10 point shots. This year in new computer lab I have a 20 pointer shots at the appropriate distance.  Every student will eventually get to shoot.  If they do not get a chance to shoot, at the next game we begin where we left off.  No passing off until later in the year.  This helps control the game in your favor, especially if they are winning. More on this later.

5. Absolutely no talking, whispering,  or looking at others when the question is up.  If they make a noise, I immediately call out “1 shot for me” and keep calling out more shots if any noise or collaboration continues.  This also helps generate extra shots for you if for some reason your getting to the end of the period and they are leading.  They are so excited because they think you are going to lose, and they cannot help but make noise. (I’m bad!)

6. Students must document all questions on a scratch paper.  All work is required.  Their win may be disqualified if someone does not have any work showing.  (I actually have had to do this once, and from then on, 100% compliance on every subsequent game played.)  Like Dan, after all students have left, I just toss them out.


* I always play class vs teacher.  This, to me, has the most value because they want to beat me so bad.  (The converse is also true!) The motivation factor to solve the problems that are presented is very high.

* I am careful of how many times I play this.  Like anything, too much of something for 7th and 8th graders and they get bored of it.  This year, my returning students in 8th grade from the 2nd week in, started hounding me to play.   I waited until last week to play the first game.  It was well worth the wait.

* Design of the questions is important.  I will scaffold the level of difficulty up and interject some non math-related question into the mix. Socrative also can send you a report of detailed results for each student for your review and maybe the next day I might be re-teaching a standard they are having trouble with.  So good feedback you get from the game.

* I like Socrative because it is simple.  It allows you to upload images for questions.  It has multiple choice and free response answers.  It works very well.

*  Taking a line from Dan,  I always tell my students that “I never lose”, even if they beat me.  Later that afternoon or the next day I have selected amnesia which drives them nuts.


* It still amazes me how they will talk about the game afterwords but even about the problems they got wrong.  There is some good learning going on here.

* Overall, as the game is going on, the highlight is the shooting into the trash can. (Normally they get in trouble for throwing stuff in the room) The students strategy is usually flawed here as they want to take the glory shots from the 10 or 20 point line.  I usually just start with 1 or 2 pointers and build a lead.  Your mileage may vary.  Just be ready for lots of noise when you are trying to make the shot to beat them from the 10 point line! There is nothing better during that moment.

That is the ESPN highlight. Da – da – da, Da – da – da.


One thought on “Da da da – Da da da – Math Basketball (my twist)

    Denise Gaskins said:
    October 7, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    I like your twist on the game. Socrative looks like a really handy tool for making sure each student has given the problem a go, and I like the staggered point system for determining who shoots. Thanks for sharing!

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