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Interval Races

Gist: Students compete in a relay to complete a worksheet against an unpredictable timer.​

Why Do It?  The unpredictable nature of the interval timer keeps students on their toes and interest high.  The only materials you need are a worksheet and the timer!


-one copy of the worksheet for each group

-an interval timer set to random lengths of time (you're welcome to use mine)

Set Up:

1. Have the timer ready and sound on, but don't display the timer to the students--you don't want them to know when it's going to go off!

2. Arrange the class in teams and set them up relay-style, one player seated at the desk with the others lined up behind.

To Play:

1. Distribute a copy of the worksheet to each team, face down.

2. Go over the rules--only the player seated at the desk may work the problems, and teammates cannot help.  When the timer sounds, the next player takes the seat and resumes working.  Players may change answers, skip around, etc.  NOTE: because the timer will sound soon, players do not feel too much pressure if they're unsure, and waiting players don't get too antsy or off-task.  The unpredictable timer will keep anticipation high!

3. Start the timer and say go.  Players switch at the sound and continue until a team believes they are done with all answers correct.

4.  When a team believes they are done, they put all their hands up.  Pause the timer and have other teams turn their papers over and put their pencils down.  Check that team's work.  The moment you find a mistake, resume the timer and let other teams continue while you finish checking that "done" team.  This gives teams incentive to be sure they're correct before putting their hands up, avoiding random answers.

5.  Continue until a team really is totally correct or you call time, at which point the winner would be the team with the most correct answers.

Caution and Tips:

-Observe carefully as teams work to keep an eye on who seems to be getting the content and who isn't.  This activity does not provide you with solid data to this nature and is intended for practice rather than data to drive instruction.

-Although I avoid activities where students are waiting with nothing to do, I've found the unpredictable timer keeps them waiting with baited breath, and I have not had much trouble with off-task students.


-Instead of a worksheet relay, put discussion questions on each desk with notebook paper.  Have students start at a desk and write an answer until the timer goes off and then rotate to the next desk, continuing THAT problem until the timer sounds, etc.

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