George Lucas Educational Foundation

# Making Math Review a High-Energy Game

In the 100 Squares Challenge, math review takes the form of friendly—but fierce!—competition, inspiring students to complete problems under pressure.

May 17, 2024

When high school math teacher Jennifer Feehan got home one day, she turned to her husband proudly and said, “I had kids running to do math problems today. Like, running.”

Her secret? A game called 100 Squares Challenge, which she uses as a tool for review in her AP precalculus class at Fauquier High School, in Warrenton, Virginia. To prepare, she sources dozens of math problems from worksheets and AP classroom questions. She cuts up the worksheets so that each piece of paper includes just one problem, and she makes an answer key for herself.

In class, Feehan lays all of the problems face-down and projects a 100-square grid on her whiteboard. She asks students to form teams of two. When she says, “Go!” students grab a math problem and then work with their partner to solve it as quickly as possible. Once they have an answer, one of the partners approaches Feehan to check their answer.

If the answer is incorrect, the pair has a second chance to rework the problem. If they get it right, they sign their initials in a numbered square of their choice. The goal is to claim as many squares as possible to increase the odds of winning the game. Students move in every direction—racing to Feehan, racing to the board, and racing to get a new problem. Nestor, a 10th-grade student, said, “It was chaotic, but I think it was chaotic in a good way.”

Students continue adding their initials to the grid until every square is full. At that point, students who get a problem right still need to add their initials to a square—but to do so, they have to erase the initials of one of their classmates. Nestor recalls, “I was having a sort of rivalry with one of my other classmates where I would erase his square and he would erase mine. That was certainly very fun.”

At the end of the set time—usually 20 minutes—Feehan uses a calculator to generate a random number between 1 and 100. The winner is the team that has their initials on that square. The result elicits cheers and groans.

Both the students and Feehan benefit from this activity. The students receive immediate feedback on whether they’ve solved a problem correctly. For Feehan, patterns emerge: If multiple groups of students get the same problem wrong, she knows she’ll need to review that concept.

The high-energy nature of the game means that students gain practice completing problems under pressure. “It gives you the AP problems in a way that’s less stressful than the test,” Nestor notes. Some students may complete five problems, while others may complete a dozen. Because the winner is determined by luck, it’s worthwhile for all students to try their best.

In the end, Feehan notes, “it’s kids having fun doing math. And that’s the goal.”

Public, Suburban