Thursday, 28 November 2013

Revision Races

My all-time favourite activity for an engaging Maths revision lesson is a Revision Race.

I first introduced these to my colleagues in 2011 having found the idea via TES Resources. A quick internet search tells me that there are a few Revision Races around including those in the Bits and Bobs section of the 'Number Loving' website. I have also seen these activities called Revision Relays.

However, during the last two years my colleagues and I have developed an approach to Revision Races which seems a bit different from the way other people use them. In this post, I will describe how I run a Revision Race and how this differs from what appears to be the norm.

The standard version of a Revision Race usually involves students answering a series of questions as quickly as they can. They are given an initial question and must bring the correct answer to the teacher before they are given the next question. The winner would be the student, or group of students, who answer the most questions in the allotted time. I did try running a Revision Race in this way a couple of times but I had a key concern: what should I do if a group of students got completely stuck on one question even after multiple attempts?

I believe that my adapted version of a Revision Race addresses this issue and also has a number of other added aspects which teachers may find useful.

Firstly, in my Revision Races, students have access to all of the questions right from the start. These are printed on a single piece of A4 paper, a copy of which is given to each student. (This remains far more cost effective than having lots of copies of different questions all on separate sheets of paper). Questions might focus on one particular topic area as in the example below or could be more of a mixture. The rules can vary slightly depending on the class but this format allows me to let students answer the questions in any order they wish and/or allow them to attempt to answer more than one question at a time before bringing me the answers. This can be particularly useful with a larger class when long queues of students wanting their answers marked can form all too quickly.

An example of a Revision Race focusing on algebra.

Secondly, students have a maximum of three attempts at each question.
Each team has an answer grid (see below) which must be completed for each question.
If an answer is incorrect, students can choose either to make another attempt or to move on to another question.

Students generally use mini-whiteboards to do their working out and, if they get really stuck, they can bring these to me for a hint or to find out where they have gone wrong.

I have also devised a scoring system for my Revision Races. If the first answer is correct, six points are scored, four points are scored if the answer is correct at the second attempt while only two points are scored if the third attempt is right. If the third attempt is incorrect, students score no points for that question and must move on to another question.

Revision Race answer grid

Finally, I record the all of the points on an Excel spreadsheet as they are gained during the Revision Race. This means that students are able to keep track of their progress during the lesson on a live scoreboard.
A bit of conditional formatting means that the cells of the spreadsheet change colour depending on the number of points scored. I find that this use of colour also serves as excellent Assessment for Learning for me as a teacher. For example, on the spreadsheet below, I can see that Question 4 caused lots of problems which indicates that I need to revisit this topic.

Revision Race score board
In order to try to reward different approaches to a Revision Race, I usually award prizes to the team with the most points but also to the team with the longest run of green answers.

I have made some resources available to get you started. They are downloadable by clicking on the links below.
Revision Race score board
Revision Race answer grid
Revision Race - algebra questions

If you'd like to know more about how I use Revision Races, please let me know. And if you're using Revision Races in a different way that is really successful, I'd love to find out more from you.


  1. I will have to try this out next review time. Thanks for sharing.
    I noticed your spreadsheet has ten groups. Do you have groups of 2, 3, or 4? What do you find works best for your students and classroom?
    I noticed students have an answer sheet and need to check their answers for accuracy. Do they show you their work? What procedure have you setup in your class with your students so that you can efficiently check their answers? I can't imagine 10 groups (or one person from each group) lined up to check their answer with you.

    1. Hi Andrew, thanks for your questions. I'll do my best to answer them although there is plenty of room for flexibility and personal preference about how these Revision Races work.
      In terms of group sizes, this might depend on the size of the whole class. In a class of 30, 10 groups of 3 is just about manageable but most of my teaching groups are smaller than this and where possible I much prefer students to work in pairs. Some students choose to work alone and I cannot see a reason to prevent this.
      I don't insist on seeing the students' work - only the answers - but some of my colleagues are stricter about this. Students generally find it useful to retain their working out in case their answer is incorrect as they can then bring the working out to me for a hint about where they went wrong.
      In order to check students' answers and update the scoreboard, I have a strategically placed 'scorer's table' next to my computer. I also have all of the solutions in front of me. Marking students answers is very quick so a queue rarely has more than 3 students in it. If long queues look likely, you can allow students to answer more than one question before bringing you their solutions. I also try to include some challenging questions that will slow students down.
      Please ask again if anything is unclear.
      I'm also happy to e-mail you some example resources if that would be useful.

  2. Hello and thank you for your blog post. I've actually just created an account on here just to reply (I came across your page via someone I follow sharing it on twitter). I am a maths teacher of 5 years and have used relay races a few times in the past with varying degrees of success it has to be said! I've often found the middle ability groups the most difficult to engage and wonder if you have found this to be the case too? You mention in your post that you would be willing to share some resources? Well, my year 11s are approaching their mock week in school and I'd be very happy to try a couple of your races with them to help prepare for their exams. I'm particularly interested in your live scoreboard idea - I think this could provide a powerful focal point for some of my more competitive pupils! Thanks again.

    1. Hi Steven, I mostly teach middle ability groups at KS4 and I would say I do find Revision Races successful with the vast majority of students. I do think the scoreboard helps though. I'm happy to share some resources with you if you let me have your e-mail address. It may be best to contact me via Twitter?

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  4. I love it! I would love to be able to try something similar as a change.
    Can I trade this resource:
    for your revision races? I am contactable via tes

  5. Hi

    I love doing Relay activities in class. I find them a fantastic way to engage all students in the work they are doing. I use the more traditional approach of one questions at a time, but I must admit that sometimes a pair can become very stuck on a single question. I also use Excel to keep track of the scores live on the board, and use a three attempts rule (though I use 3, 2 and 1 points). I have also created a set of computer based relay activities which you might enjoy, and I am adding more as I get the time. You can find these at this link

    I would love it if you could share your Revision Races with me, you can find my email address on my website, or contact me via twitter @InteractMaths.

  6. Hi MathsMuggle, thanks very much for the resource! I am keen to try this out with my classes. I particularly like the dynamic spreadsheet. One could also add a column for the rank of each group. I would be happy to do this and share this with you if you like? How can I get in touch with you?