Speed dating in the math classroom.

17 Apr

I’m always looking for ways to let kids practice in class without necessarily even realize that is what they are doing because they are having a little fun doing it. We are working on solving systems of equations and started out by solving via graphing. This way they truly understand what they are finding when solving a system.

Next day I wanted them to do the “set equal to method” (aka substitution when both equations are solved for the same variable.). Not necessarily a hard task but it is something they need practice on solving. So I pulled out Kate Nowak’s (one of my math teacher idols) math speed dating activity. Basically the desks were lined up with two desks per pod. I had 12 groups.


Look at them working so hard! Love them all!

I made 12 sets of different equations and numbered each set. I then handed out a set to each group being mindful of the level of difficulty when I initially handed them out. I told the students they needed to solve their problem in their group and become “experts” at their problem. When they were done I checked their answers and helped clear up any mistakes.

After students had become experts at their problem, I had the student sitting In the middle isle change desks behind them so they were sitting with a new person that had a different problem. (After thinking about this I didn’t necessarily have to do this but it worked.). They students then exchanged note cards and solved the new problem. Here is the great part – if they were confused, they had an “expert” sitting across from them to help! Also I knew the correct answer was their as well. After each group was done I made sure the kids had their original problem in hand and had them “speed date” – one person stayed in their spot and the other person switched to the next table and the whole process started over.

Fun things I saw – it was fun seeing students who sometimes struggle helping other students who were stuck on their expert problem. It was fun seeing the confidence level increase in solving these problems after a few dating rotations. It was also fun when I then had the whole class solve the “special” cases of no solution and infinite solutions when they were done and discuss as a class what was happening in those cases.

Will definitely be using this one again.


Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Uncategorized



10 responses to “Speed dating in the math classroom.

  1. Sara Peterson

    September 17, 2013 at 1:21 am

    I’m confused about the switch. Does each person have a worksheet and they switch or is it a recording sheet and each kid keeps a notecard that they move with? I love this idea I just need some more information

    • Becky Rahm

      September 17, 2013 at 1:29 am

      You can really do it how you want. I think with this one students had a blank sheet of paper they worked the other persons problem on or I’ve done it where they just have an expert problem from a worksheet and at the end the worksheet is done. I suppose dry erase boards would work too. But the key is the person sitting across from you has the correct answer. Hope that helps. And thanks for reminding me of this. I think it will work great for what we are currently doing and I’ll use it on Wednesday. 🙂

  2. Allison

    August 11, 2015 at 1:09 am

    I found this post today! I came up with the same idea last year. We used it at least once with every unit. I wrote the 12 problems on pink index cards and copied them onto blue index cards. I had the cards laminated so I would be ready to reuse this year. I figured out that you can make the other side rotate, also. Kids would hate moving, so they would try to figure out which side would move and strategize their seat. It didn’t work when I switched it with each rotation! If I had an odd number of students, I would sit across from the solo and work the problem on a sheet of paper. When a student would rotate opposite the empty seat, he/she could check their solution with mine.

    Two awesome things happen with this activity! 1. I don’t have to do much after the initial problem and checking. 2. I usually group high and low. With this activity, the kids get to work with half the class. Some of my high students begin asking each other questions that deepens their understanding.

    I never had a good name for this activity. Glad I have one now!

  3. Lisa

    March 11, 2017 at 2:25 pm

    I can’t wait to try this with my class! I am, however, going to figure out another name: I teach 4th grade, and yes, they talk about “dating”, but I don’t want to go there even if it it just the name of an activity.

    • Becky Rahm

      March 11, 2017 at 2:29 pm

      Maybe speed learning?

    • Lydia Cade

      August 12, 2017 at 4:58 pm

      I do a similar activity and we call it “speed equating”.

      • Becky Rahm

        August 14, 2017 at 6:15 pm

        Brilliant! Stealing this!

  4. Kim Chamer

    June 21, 2017 at 12:32 am

    Okay so you have 12 sets (24 problems or 12 problems and the set is two of the same problem so at first the person they are sitting across from has the same problem and they can work with them to figure it) then you have one student switch so then they have different problem to solve and then they can help each other because they are an expert on the card that they came with — yes does my question make sense?

    • Becky Rahm

      June 21, 2017 at 12:55 am

      Your question makes total sense. I probably should have explained better. For this activity I made 12 sets of 2, so 24 papers but 12 different problems. The partners start by working their expert problem together so they can help each other out if stuck. One side then rotates and trades problems with their new partner. They can ask questions of the person sitting across from them as well as check their answer because the person across from them is the “expert”. Before I say rotate, they must trade their problem back so they have their problem they originally started with – the one they are experts at. Then they rotate again. The reason I made 12 sets is because I have generally have 24 desks. Sometimes when I’m in a time crunch or they don’t need as much practice I only make 6 problems and have the kids only rotate among their side of the room.


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