100 Numbers Task Version 2

Last year I used Sara Van Der Werf’s 100 Numbers task at the start of the year and LOVED it.  Absolutely loved it!  I can see myself using this in the first week of school for the rest of my career.  You can read Sara’s post here on why and how she uses it with her students.  I can almost guarantee your classroom will look exactly like Sara’s in her blog post.

This activity is awesome!  It has numbers so it seems mathy, even though it really isn’t.  It’s low risk and engages all students –every group ends up being a productive group simply by the nature of the task.  This allows us to have a conversation about what group work should look like in class throughout the entire year.  We’re also able to talk about how math is the study of patterns and that as mathematicians we notice patterns, describe patterns, and generalize patterns.  (I made a poster on that idea.  The blog post is here, and here’s Sara’s post on that topic.)

As I’m starting to put together plans for the first week of school, I plan on using this activity again.  The only problem is one of my classes is a group of students I had last year who have already done the activity.  I still want to review what good group work looks like as well as reiterate that math is the study of patterns, so I still want to do this activity with them again.  I thought about using the same sheet and having students count backwards like I had seen Sara do at a PD session one time.   Then I saw someone post on Twitter about creating different expressions for the numbers.  Brilliant!

I came up with this:

Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 6.25.37 PM

I kept a pattern, but switched it up a bit from the original version.  If you divide the page into 4 quadrants and start in the upper left and move clockwise around, it goes 2-1-1 and then repeats the 2-1-1 in order to keep the total number of expressions in each quadrant the same.  You can sort of see this below.  The yellow is the first 4 numbers, purple is the next 4, green, and then blue.

Screen Shot 2017-08-17 at 6.34.58 PM

I would LOVE feedback on this.  I like it, but I think there’s room for improvement.  Below are some questions I have.

  • Is it too much?  Too busy?  Obviously the expressions take up more space than a single number so there is more on a page.  Is it too overwhelming?  Would I be better off going up to 50? or 75?
  • I had originally planned on using all operations, but when I finished I ended up only using addition and multiplication.  I decided this was ok because students will only have to focus on two operations, but is even 2 too many?  Would it be better to just have one operation?

I won’t have a chance to try this out with students for a few weeks, but if anyone uses it, I would love to hear how it goes.

Here’s the pdf version of what I made.

Update 8/17:  When I looked at the version I created the next day, I was a bit overwhelmed by all the numbers.  I figured my middle schoolers would likely be overwhelmed by it.  I updated the font and that helped a bit.

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 11.21.54 AM

After doing that I also took some of the expressions out and replaced them with the numbers.

Screen Shot 2017-08-20 at 11.22.08 AM

You can download pdf and word versions of both of those here.

Version 3 (Summer 2018 Update)

When I used the version I created last year with students, I found that it was definitely much more challenging than the original version.  I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing at all.  Our conversation after the activity was a bit different.  At first, the students didn’t necessarily feel successful because they remembered doing the activity in the past and knew they had gotten farther.  They were quicker to find the numbers in the original version, so they felt more successful doing that one.  However, this lead into a conversation of how we defined success.  Was success finding all 100 numbers?  Was success working really quickly? OR Was success working together?  Was success not giving up when the task was more challenging than you anticipated?

With that being said, I decided to create a third version of the task that I think we be in between Sara’s original version and the one I created last year.  I have still included some expressions, but there are a lot fewer of them than the version I created last year.  I think the pattern is also easier to see in this version.  It goes top left, bottom right, bottom left, top right, and then starts over.

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 11.09.12 AM

I’m not sure how I will incorporate this into the start of the school year yet.  I may use this version first with students and then maybe later on in the week, or partway through the school year, when we need to revisit what good group work looks like, use the version I created last year.  Students ALWAYS ask to do more of these activities.

Screen Shot 2018-06-03 at 7.45.37 PM

You can download all of the versions I’ve created here.

15 thoughts on “100 Numbers Task Version 2

  1. Pingback: 100 Numbers to Get Students Talking - Sara VanDerWerf

  2. My team of 6th grade math teachers plans on doing Sara’s activity tomorrow, but I LOVE yours for my advanced class. 🙂 Can’t wait to try it!


  3. I really like this idea for the high school level. In fact for trig, I like to rearrange the numbers so the pattern goes in a counterclockwise Direction starting with quadrant 1. Way before we begin our study of the unit circle, I’ll be planting seeds about moving in a counterclockwise Direction. Super idea!


  4. This is a great addition to the basic version you spoke of first. I’ve never heard of these neat little ice breaker’s that still incorporate the mathematics (sorta) all the while subliminally informing them of my expectations in group work. Thanks for your hard work!


  5. I tried your activity with three of my classes today and I tried it three different ways. I used Sara’s version with my Geometry classes since none of them had done the activity with me before and they love it, especially when they discovered the pattern. We talked about how they were mathematicians because they noticed a pattern (We did the what do mathematicians do talk yesterday). In my three algebra II classes I had about 3 students who had me last year and when they heard what we were doing they were already telling their table groups the pattern. I used Sara’s version with my first algebra 2 class and they were expecting the same pattern when we did it the second time using your version. The challenging part for them was evaluating the expressions to find the answers they needed, there were too many numbers to look at. They also had difficulty seeing the pattern. I think just having two operations was good, but one might have helped them find more numbers in the time frame given. My second algebra 2 class I started with your version and as soon as they turned their paper over they almost wanted to give up because they saw the expressions. I didn’t tell them there would be expressions, so next time I would definitely let them know. Because a few of them felt defeated and I didn’t want that for the activity, the second time we did it, I gave them Sara’s version. My last algebra 2 class was my advance class. I gave them your version and told them about the expressions, they worked well, but they couldn’t see the pattern either. I really like the expressions but will need to make adjustments for next time. Thanks so much for the great idea.


    • Thank you for the feedback! I was planning on giving students more time to work on this because of the expressions, but I wondered if even with that if it would seem too overwhelming to students. I have a couple other versions I’ve been working on that I hope will look less intimidating for students. I’ll update the post when I finish those up.


  6. OMG. Here I have been stressing on wanting to do Sara’s but having done it in the past I was in a quandary as to what to do on the first day. THIS IS AMAZING and exactly what I wanted. You are my hero.


  7. Thank you for this! I love the different options! How did you create it to look like that? I’m imagining you did a 2×2 table without the borders and put the numbers in there? Was it using text boxes so you could rotate them?


    • It’s been a while since I made this, but I’m pretty sure I started by adding lines so I could see the 4 quadrants. I had a separate word doc with all of the numbers in individual text boxes so I could change the font size and rotate them. Then I copied and pasted each number into the other document where I could see the 4 quadrants. At the end, I deleted those lines.


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