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Playing Exponent War: An Exponent Activity for 6th Grade Math


Encourage Math Discussion With This Exponent Activity for 6th Grade Math

An Exponent Activity for 6th Grade or Middle School Math Class

Are you looking for an exponent activity for  6th grade or middle school math students?

We played a little “exponent war” in our 6th grade math classes today, inspired by a couple of pins I saw on Pinterest.

I made a recording sheet, for each partner to record their exponential form and its value. You can download it by clicking the button at the bottom of this post:-)

exponent activity for 6th grade

How to Play Exponent 'War'

  • 1) Students play in partners
    2) Each student gets half a deck of cards
  • If you keep the ‘face’ cards in the deck, assign a number value to them

3) Each partner flips over 2 cards:  

  • The first card is the base and the 2nd card is the exponent

4) Students find the value of their exponential expressions

  • Example: in the picture, students find 5 to the 8th power and 7 to the 5th power

5) The student with the higher expressions ‘wins’ all the cards

  • Example: 5^8 = 390,625 and 7^5 = 16,807, so the student with 5^8 gets all the cards in that round

6) Play continues until one player has won all the cards (or until time is up:-)

playing exponent war in middle school math

Using Calculators for This Exponent Activity

I haven’t allowed the students to use calculators to find the values of exponential expressions up to this point, but… I did allow them to use calculators for this exponent activity, because some of the numbers end up being so large! (We used the jacks, queens, and kings as 11, 12, and 13.)

In my first class, students discovered that the calculator converted the values of expressions with large bases and large exponents to scientific notation.

  • In my subsequent classes, I explained the basics of scientific notation to the students before they began the activity. 
  • I also suggested that they might want to stick with bases and exponents less than 9. (My students haven’t worked with scientific notation yet, but if they had, it would have been great to integrate that concept into the activity).
  • Having the choice to stay under 9 or to use those larger numbers was a great opportunity for self-differentiation!

The students really enjoyed the activity. It was interesting to listen to their comments about how they knew which one was larger, before they actually calculated the values. They want to play a little longer tomorrow, so this was definitely a hit!

What is your favorite exponent activity for 6th grade or middle school math class?

exponent activity for 6th grade math

Looking for more math games? Check out the Fraction War blog post!

Resources to Teach and Practice Exponent Concepts

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Welcome to Cognitive Cardio Math! I’m Ellie, a wife, mom, grandma, and dog ‘mom,’ and I’ve spent just about my whole life in school! With nearly 30 years in education, I’ve taught:

  • All subject areas in 4th and 5th grades
  • Math, ELA, and science in 6th grade (middle school)

I’ve been creating resources for teachers since 2012 and have worked in the elearning industry for about five years as well!

If you’re looking for ideas and resources to help you teach math (and a little ELA), I can help you out!



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