The “Balloon Pop” review game

This is my students’ favorite review game. I’m pretty sure I originally got the idea from Elissa Miller, but I’ve been working on the rules with my classes for the last couple years. I think that last year we developed the definitive version.

Teams start with four balloons. Not pictured here are the fun and usually clever names they come up with.
balloonpop2A question is projected on the board for each team to answer. I usually give a time limit of around two minutes, but go longer or shorter depending on the question and my goals.
balloonpop3After time is up, I call on a random student from each team to come and show me their answer. While the chosen students come to the front of the room, the answer is displayed for the other students.
balloonpop4Each team that gets the question correct must take another team’s balloon. I usually limit students to about 20 seconds to decide whose balloon to steal, otherwise they’ll spend all day making their choice. I also randomize the order that groups steal balloons to make it a little more fair and interesting. In the example, Groups 3, 7, and 10 appear to have answered incorrectly. Group 7 appears to have made some enemies. And Group 1 took a balloon from Group 3, while Group 2 took one from Group 5, etc. A student once told me that this game ends friendships. What more could you ask for?


Play continues until the period ends or we run out of questions. The winner is the team with the most balloons.

Unlike the physical version I was inspired by, this version takes place entirely in a PowerPoint (the blank template is at the end of the post). Some notes about the file:

  • I use Extended Desktop and project the PowerPoint to my projector, leaving the actual file open on my computer monitor. This allows me to move the balloons around without restarting the slideshow.
  • I always edit the file at 50% magnification, because…
  • balloonpop5There are four balloons on the sides of the score slide that you can quickly copy and paste into each group’s box. Hold down CTRL and drag while you have something selected to quickly make a copy of it.
  • balloonpop6When you’re making your questions and answers, the answer is on a text box to the right of the question. Again, editing at 50% magnification will make it easier to navigate without scrolling so much.
  • balloonpop8Click the “Score” button on a question slide to go back  to the score slide.
  • balloonpop7Click the numbered buttons on the bottom of the score slide to go to each question. They turn green after you’ve clicked them once because I got tired of forgetting which question we were on.
  • Click anywhere on a question slide to show the answer.

Click here to download my blank balloon pop template (.ppt).


Week 1

Pretend I’m a modernist as I present to you ramblings from the first week of school.

The first days of school.

I own that book. I don’t put a lot of stock in it, though. What I do put a lot of stock in after the week I recently wrapped up is Rachel Rosales’ name card idea. I’m already developing an amazing relationship with my students and I’m willing to bet a large part of that is the ongoing dialogue we started on that first day. When I told them that Friday was the last day we’d be doing it, multiple students in multiple classes practically begged me to continue it. So there’s that.

On language barriers.

This past summer I started learning Spanish by taking a one month immersion class for eight hours a day. I learned a lot and it was an amazing experience, but, of course, I still know so very little. It’s humbling to remember that for many of my students, they don’t have the choice of signing up for an immersion class because every day at school is English immersion—in addition to whatever content they’re supposed to be learning.

I included a box on my parent information sheet that asked if parents would prefer to communicate in Spanish. Somewhere around 50% would. Last year I (1) would not have known that and (2) would not have been in a position to reliably do anything about it.

A handful of students wrote on their name cards that they only speak a little English. Seeing them go from writing a short sentence on day 1 to writing a confident, full reply on day 2 because I responded in Spanish makes that month of work in the summer completely worth it.


I really like the feel my classes have so far this year. There are a couple that are still a little timid when it comes to working with one another, but in every class, students are willing to work hard and help each other. When we have class discussions, the entire class is involved. When I ask them to stop and think, they do. When I ask them to share with their group, they do. When I ask them to try something, they do, even if they don’t immediately believe they’ll be successful. It feels like they trust me not to waste their time doing things that won’t help them learn mathematics. And I think those are some of the most important outcomes of a first week of school.

Actual things we actually did.

In algebra 1, we played a lot with patterns, including “what will step #30 look like?” and “how many whatevers will be in step #50?” In the next week I hope to slowly introduce students to writing equations.

In algebra 2, we reviewed algebra 1 material like function notation and solving equations. We also begin to hint at function transformations by looking at what happens to a graph when you add a constant to the function it represents. In the next week we will explore the Five Expectations and review linear functions.

In geometry, we explored properties of geometric figures. We formally defined the triangle and square, discovered or remembered properties of those figures, found counterexamples for misremembered properties, and completed our first proof (that the sum of the angle measures of a triangle is 180°). It’s perhaps worth mentioning that the first proof of last year happened in like, December. Also: spontaneous applause occurred when the first proof of the year was completed.