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Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Flyswatter Game for Identifying Conics

I heard about this game from Rebecca Bell and immediately thought to use it for identifying the equations of conics*. We spent about 10 minutes lecturing/notetaking and then played the game.

The Preparation:
1. Buy 4 flyswatters. (At the hardware store. They are cheap.)
2. Create equations to identify and swat. I used 2 of each of the main types of conic sections.
3. Print out 2 copies and separate them with a paper cutter.
4. Tape them randomly to the whiteboard. I used 2 identical boards, playing with 4 teams, for a large class.
5. Create several rounds of things to identify. In earlier rounds I made it easy, like "a parabola" and later made it more difficult like "a parabola that opens to the left".

Setting up the Class:
1. Divide into 4 teams.
2. 2 teams play on each identical whiteboard.
3. Each team stands in a line facing the board.
4. The first person in line holds a flyswatter and stands behind a line on the floor. (I made "lanes" with the desks - careful to place the front of the lines so that the 2 teams are the same distance from the center of the board.)

The Rules:
1. Stand behind the line until I call out what you are swatting.
2. The first person to swat the correct equation gets a point for their team. Sometimes there is more than one right answer on the board, so you can both get points.
3. If 2 people go for the same equation, the swatter on the bottom wins.
4. If any team members yell out help like "top right!", the round is over and no one gets any points.
5. If you win a point, you pick up a marker and give your team a point on the whiteboard.

I found the best place for me to stand was on top of a desk behind all the lines.

The kids were engaged, had fun, and didn't want to stop playing. Success! A few got so competitive (pushing, jumping to front of line out of turn) I had to put them in time out. That's right. 16 year olds in time out.

I wish I had some pictures but my camera had an inexplicably dead battery that day. Also, if anyone knows how to get a cell phone picture onto the Internets, please enlighten me.

*because I am a big nerd.


  1. How many total answers did you have up on the board?

    I would like to try this game after Christmas although we are no where near getting to conic sections yet. I might do it with exponent rules.

  2. As for the cell phone pic... send a multimedia text message to your email account with the picture attached. Save the picture on your computer. Upload picture through blogger's upload feature.

    Hope that helps!!

    Passing this game on to our alg2 teachers :)

  3. H I used 2 equations each for Line, Circle, Parabola, Ellipse, and Hyperbola. If you follow the link to scribd you can see the word doc of the exact equations I used.

    Mrs Temple thanks, I'll try that.

  4. This does sound fun-especially in the class full of wanderers. (I need more active games for them.)

    My idea taking this maybe a bit too hi-tech, but to help speed in-class setup: put answers in powerpoint/overhead and project on the whiteboard. I may even see about getting the question on the top of the screen... yeah.

  5. I like your addition (no pun intended, math teacher) of the rule that you can't yell out "Top Left!" I hadn't thought of that. Glad it was successful!

  6. Next time, check your batteries. Or make a little movie. Or have one of the kids. That way we could see the teacher retreat to the desk top!

    Maybe I'll try, one day... but I think I need to be in a different course. There's a richness about id'ing conic sections that we don't encounter in the same way elsewhere.


  7. I just need a new camera. My battery drains way too fast, even when I am not using it. Also, it takes crappy pictures.

    You could do swatters if you do any explicit vocabulary lessons or reviewing. It was invented for that!

  8. Just wanted to comment that I did this activity as a review game and had answers to the questions on the board. My kids LOVED it and wanted to play every day. Thanks for the fun idea!

  9. Check out Julie's PPT for this game:

  10. Could be fun with first quadrant trig values.


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