Number Line Cooperative Group Activity
Here is a low-prep math activity that will get your students working together and talking about math. It is a great way to set the tone for your math class. While the math work itself is very easy for most students, it will provide a great challenge because it is much harder than it first appears.
Give each group the following materials:
- One long, skinny piece of butcher paper (I cut a regular piece of butcher paper into three long, skinny pieces)
- A flat surface such as a row of desks, a wall (you can tape up the paper) a table, etc.
- Pencils for group members
- Markers for tracing over the numbers
Do NOT give your students rulers or other measuring devices. Believe me, they will ask for them!
Instruct your students to create a number line that shows evenly spaced numbers for their given range. In a class of 5th and 6th graders, I gave one group the numbers 0-50, another group the numbers 50-100, and one group the numbers -50 through 0. You can do a longer number line with a larger class. 3-4 group members per group is a good amount for each group. You can modify the activity by only providing pencils to certain group members, which is a great way to encourage participation by all types of students.
Groups will have to work together to decide how they will space their numbers. It takes time, but most groups will eventually attempt to find benchmark numbers by identifying the midpoint number, and/or dividing their paper into 5 evenly-divided sections. You will need to rotate around and help guide groups that are having trouble.
After groups have made their number line in pencil, ask the members of the group to trace over the numbers in marker.
I displayed the number line in our classroom and the students were proud to have ownership of this work. It isn’t as perfect as a number line you would buy at a teacher store, but as long as it is numerically accurate, it will work.
We met as a whole class at the end of the activity so students could share their successes and challenges. We refer to the number line often. It provides a great visual for negative numbers, ordering numbers, comparing numbers, addition and subtraction strategies, etc.