Skill and Drill Without the Worksheets

30 January 2016
I just wanted to share a quick idea for skill and drill with you today.  Maybe it's something you already do, but if not, read on - my students LOVE this activity.

This activity, which we affectionately call "Speed-Dating Math" is the perfect activity for when your students need that extra drill practice, and you know you don't want to pull out the boring worksheets.  We're deep into our multiplication and division unit right now, and this is how we practice using the traditional algorithm.

Basically, set your students up in pairs so they are facing eachother - long rows of desks or tables work the best for this.  Our desks are currently set-up in a "U" formation, so this works well.  Each student needs a whiteboard.  Before I had individual whiteboards, we would use laminated paper or paper in page protectors - basically anything with a wipe-off surface.  Students draw a line down their whiteboards to divide the surface in half.

  • I write a question on the board and give them exactly one minute to solve it on one half of their whiteboards.  
  • After that I give them exactly one minute to discuss their answers with their partner (this is perfect for those students who need a little extra time to solve because they can work with their partner to finish solving the question).
  • Then, using the other half of the board, we solve it together on the whiteboard, with students writing down the actual solution we do together (this takes about one minute also)
  • And the last VERY IMPORTANT step - they get one minute to compare their solutions with the correct solution.  If there are any errors they need to circle the errors and identify where they went wrong.  They do this error analysis with their partners, talking through the errors.  

At the end of the four minutes, I call out "Speed Date Switch".  The one side of the line moves one seat to the left and the other side of the line moves one seat to the right.  With their new partners, we start the whole process again.  We can complete about 7 questions in a 30 minute session.  Each question takes 4 minutes in total - but it's the deep analysis and comparison that makes it so much more valuable than just a skill and drill worksheet.  

I also really love using this activity for quick fun reviews - this is my go-to format for doing reviews with our math cootie catchers, or reading response cootie catchers after our read alouds.

This activity is definitely a winner in my classroom - the students ask every single day if we're doing speed dating math ... which is so funny when passer-bys hear this from a class of ten year-olds.  ;)


  1. Love it! I'll have to try this :)

  2. What a fun way to practice skills! I love how you have students solve the problem twice (once by themselves and once with you) and then analyze their errors. I have found that it is SO difficult to get students to analyze their mistakes. My students just want the right answer and they want to find it quickly. I am trying to help them change their mindset. I will try this with my fifth graders. :)

  3. I LOVE all your ideas and was wondering how do you modify tasks (such as the speed dating for those IEP students that are grades below)? Thanks

    1. What I do when I'm trying to play games like these is have a seperate set of questions pre-written out for the students with IEP'S. Then I usually pair them up together and work with then while the others are working. Another method I use to give the students a modified version but same skill and have them work with a student that does not have an IEP.

  4. Fabulous ideas on this site. Thank you!