Lanyard Math

By: Mary Kienstra on: January 11, 2014  in: Collaboration, differentiation, Engagement, lanyard, Math

        My latest idea for improving math engagement is what I call, “Lanyard Math”.  Funny thing about this is that it is just the same problems from the student book – presented in a new format that makes them very engaging.

        Lanyard math is actually an idea that I stole from a vocabulary resource. The idea was for the kids to wear the vocabulary words and then share them with others.  Since I seem to see everything through a math lens, I thought this was a perfect lesson for MATH.
        Instead of sitting quietly working alone on problems from the book, students move from partner to partner, collaborating to solve each other’s lanyard problems. They discuss, check, help each other, and own their learning.  This gives them a chance to support each other in their learning too.  In fact, this week I noticed two students sitting together for longer than usual.  As I asked how they were doing, they told me that K was helping C and that now he gets it!  Perfect.  
        This is an engagement tool that can be used with any content.  So far I’ve used lanyard math to improve engagement with adding and subtracting fractions, multiplying and dividing fractions, and math vocabulary.  I know in the next few weeks, my third graders will be using this same strategy for practicing multiplying and dividing.  
        Lanyard math could also differentiate lessons too.  You could have certain colored lanyards or colored paper for certain groups.  That way your students would be working on problems at their level.  
        I am always looking for ways to make my lessons more engaging.  I think this is a great tool.  

To implement this strategy:
  1. Find a class set of lanyards and plastic name tag holders.  I bought mine from  They are not expensive.
  2. I cut index cards to fit inside the plastic “name tag” holder.  Use these to write problems from the text or student resource.  Attach the problems to the lanyard.  You will need as many lanyards as you have students.
  3. Create a document for students to write their equations and record their answers.  Make this available to your students.
  4. For the lesson, I start by handing out a lanyard to each student and ask them to wear it.  I tell them this is their problem and they will become the expert.  First thing they do is solve the problem they are wearing and check it with the key to make sure it is correct.
  5. When everyone is satisfied that they can share their problem with other students, we start by having them share with someone who has the same colored lanyard.  (That doesn’t really matter, but serves to help get things started!  Totally a management tool.)
  6. Students move around the room to find a partner.  They sit together and solve each other’s equations.  Since the student wearing the lanyard problem is the expert, that student is ready to help others with that problem.  

Notice the math problem in the lanyard and the recording sheet.
Students wear the lanyard to “own” their math problem.

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