Feeling like Ferris Bueller’s teacher as I stand in front of the class during test review, “Anyone? Anyone?“
Other than the ticking clock, the room is silent. One kid has his head laid on his desk. Three kids are drawing, and the rest of the class looks like mannequins staring into space.
The end of the school year is brutal. Teachers are tired, and students are unmotivated. Unfortunately, this is when schools contend with standardized tests. How do you keep students engaged during test prep at the end of the year?
A surefire way to get kids amped up and excited about test review is to make math glow. Black light math is easy to do, and your students will think you are amazing!
Basic supplies for black light math:
- Black lights
- Neon dry erase markers
- Fluorescent decorations
- Glow-in-the-dark bracelets
Here’s how I transformed my class into a glowing math wonderland and captivated my students.
Covering the windows seems obvious, but it was my first challenge. My windows are large enough that I thought curtains would be too expensive. I thought about using black butcher paper, a tablecloth, or sheets but felt too much light would bleed through.
I found some reasonably priced blackout curtains on Amazon that fit my windows perfectly. Since I wasn’t sure how this project would turn out, I hung my curtains with good old thumbtacks.
The black lights were the most expensive part of this project. I wasn’t sure how many I needed for my classroom. I bought a package of 4 from Amazon based on another teacher's recommendation. The lights are not very big. Each lamp is 17 inches long, but they provide good coverage.
I debated between having my kids use fluorescent highlighters or letting them use glow-in-the-dark dry-erase markers. I bought both and tested them out.
Ultimately I decided highlighters were more manageable and more versatile. My students could use the highlighters on notebook paper during guided practice and on the worksheet during independent practice. Highlighters are also cheaper and easier to replace.
Not all highlighters glow-in-the-dark, so don’t spend a lot of money until you’ve tested them out. I bought a multi-color pack of Shuttle Art highlighters. The yellow, pink, and orange worked the best for black light math.
I purchased liquid glass board dry-erase markers in vibrant colors. Orange was the most visible color in the package and worked well for modeling for the class how to solve problems.
test Prep Lesson
I wanted a way to review fraction operations, and I knew if I didn’t keep my students engaged, I would be wasting my time.
After passing out paper and highlighters, I set my expectations for the activity. I loved hearing my students’ gasps when I turned out the lights, and they saw the effects of the black lights.
My lesson was simple. I put a problem on the board with my fluorescent dry-erase markers and gave students some time to work. As they were solving problems, I walked around the room, monitoring their progress and making myself available if they needed help.
Then I went over the problem, and we discussed the answer and essential aspects of the algorithm.
I’ll admit I was a little worried about how my students would react. I have a few that have a difficult time controlling themselves when they get excited. However, the kids were AWESOME! Some of the kids were a little talkative, but they were so amazed that their work was glowing, they were easy to manage.
Some of my students are super-resistant to showing work. Even my most reluctant students were working out problems on paper before the end of the lesson. Black light math for the win!
I have wanted to try this project for a couple of years but was hesitant. This test review activity took some time and money to implement, but the payoff was well worth it. I have never seen kids this engaged with math practice.
I will definitely do this again, and I even have some ideas on expanding on the glow-in-the-dark theme for other test review activities.