Whatcha Gonna Do With All Those Old Math Textbooks?


1.Make Task Cards

2.Make Game Cards

3.Make Self-Checking Activities

4.Make Exit Tickets

5.Make a Quiz

6.Use for Data Tracking

7.Use for Differentiation

What should you do with all your old math textbooks?

My district uses consumable math textbooks, and yet, we don’t really.  With a push for math stations, hands-on activities, collaborative learning, and digital usage, we don’t actually use the textbooks too often. 

Fast forward to the last day of school. The students are tasked with filling their backpacks with everything they ever owned (well at least those things that have made their way to school) and taking it home.  *Cue the moans and groans

Sure, there are those teacher-pet type students that can’t wait to play school at home with their math book, but I’ve found that most students would rather take home the flu virus that spread through the class a couple of months ago than their math book. (Well, actually it’s two math books because there is a Volume 1 and a Volume 2.) I found myself telling those kids they had to take it home, and if they threw it away once they got there, that would be their choice.

After a couple years of this, I started feeling guilty about all the waste! I decided that there was probably something useful I could do with the text books, so I’m going to share a couple of ideas with you!

And here’s my disclaimer! Almost all textbooks are copyrighted. That means you can’t just photocopy their questions, even if you changed them up a little. However, you can do this if each student will have their own licensed copy of the textbook in the future. Be careful that you check out copyright laws! You wouldn’t break other laws, so don’t break copyright laws either.

Here are some ways to create resources!


Whether you call it task cards, scoot, back-to-back, or Around the World, task cards are a great resource because they are so versatile.  You can offer them with or without recording sheets, allow students to work independently or collaboratively, make them a grade or just-for-fun… well, the options are pretty limitless.

Learn more about task cards and download our FREE task card handbook!

I think most teachers would agree on these two things: Task Cards are useful in the classroom, but let’s be real! No one has time to make task cards! That leaves you with two choices. Go to TpT and buy some or not use them for this unit.  (Well, I guess a third option would be to borrow your teacher friend’s, but that’s against copyright and you’ll get a bad feeling for breaking the law.)

So, here’s a shortcut for making some of your own task cards.  Grab a handful of notecards, some scissors, a glue stick, and your poor unwanted math textbooks.  Decide what kind of learning you want your task cards to focus on.  My math textbook does a horrible job of spiraling, so I’d like to make a set that has about half new content and half review material.  Just start flipping through your text book looking for questions.  Cut one out, glue it on a notecard, and that’s it! If you want to laminate them, they’ll last for several years!

If you don’t have notecards, download this template.  If you print it on cardstock, you can glue a question to each portion of the template, AND laminating pages is easier than cards! Laminate the whole page and then  cut it apart. Don’t forget to number each task cards so the students have a place to record their answers!

Textbook Math Game Cards

My students love playing partner games during math workshop.  They especially love board games because of the competition that naturally ensues!  You can take any commercial board game and add a learning element to it by including a stack of game cards.  

For example, Jenga is fun, but why not have students correctly answer a question before they can pull a block!  Connect 4 is a favorite, but answering a question before taking a turn makes it fun and educational!  You can also use simple board games printed at home. Click here to print one! These are fun because you can add clip art to build interest.  For example, if it’s Halloween time, just copy/paste a few Halloween-themed clip art pictures on the board game before printing!

To make this even easier, you could use Business Card paper.  Since it’s perforated, it eliminates cutting the cards out! There is also a template you can get here if you don’t have any business card paper.

Self-Checking Cards

Self-Checking cards make a great math station or partner game! They’re easy to make too! Just start with this template, find some questions from your math book, and then cut and paste them onto each section of the template! I chose to laminate them so that they would hold up, but you definitely don’t have to.  Just cut them out and grab a clothes pin.  Use a small sticker or even just make a dot using a Sharpie on the back so that students can turn the card over to determine whether they are right or wrong.

Exit Tickets

Exit tickets are amazing tools to use when you want to quickly assess whether students have learned the lesson.  Unfortunately, most text books don’t include anything like this. To make these exit tickets, you can start with the template and just paste the questions you’d like to use to assess the students.  Afterward, you can make copies, cut them into fourths, and you’ll have 4 days of 1-question-super-quick assessments!

*NOTE- Copying questions is most likely against the copyright of the text book you are using.  In order to do this, you will need students to have access to their own text books so that you aren’t making copies of material and giving them to unlicensed students. Always check your copyright terms of use.

Math Textbook Quizzes

Our text book comes with supplemental quizzes, but they aren’t always what I’m looking for.  They usually cover one standard, and the questions are very repetitive.  It doesn’t give me very good data.  Sometimes I need to make modified or differentiated quizzes as well.  Luckily, the text book does include different rigor levels.  This makes it easy to pick and choose questions that may be more appropriate for individual students.  For example, I may want to assess my GT students with higher-level questions. I can just flip through my text book and find the questions that are already designated as being challenging.  Start with the quiz template, cut/paste the questions across the page, number the questions, and you’re done! You have an appropriate, differentiated quiz that didn’t take you very long to create!

You can use this same method to modify the number of answer choices, the number of questions, the spiral of the assessment, and more!

*NOTE- Copying questions is most likely against the copyright of the text book you are using.  In order to do this, you will need students to have access to their own text books so that you aren’t making copies of material and giving them to unlicensed students. Always check your copyright terms of use.

Tracking Your Student's Data

My district is moving toward standards-based grading.  The lower elementary grades have already transformed their report card to reflect this, and the upper grades are moving quickly in that direction.  You can use old text books to help you create assessments for data tracking so that students know to what degree they have mastered the standard. Just download the template, flip through your old consumable, and begin making an awesome assessment. 

To build a mastery assessment, start with the lower blooms level questions and work your way up in rigor. Students can track the answers they got correct on the pyramid tracker on the template.  If they only answer the lower questions correctly, they may be at a basic understanding.  If they are able to reach the top of the pyramid, they have mastered the skill!

*NOTE- Copying questions is most likely against the copyright of the text book you are using.  In order to do this, you will need students to have access to their own text books so that you aren’t making copies of material and giving them to unlicensed students. Always check your copyright terms of use.

Differentiate for Your Students

While I work in small groups with my students, I like to challenge them by giving them more rigorous questions just to see how they go about solving them. Sometimes they need a little help though.  If you want to make questions that are differentiated for the needs of the students, one way to do this is to modify the answer choices. To make some of these cards, just download the template and find some appropriate questions in the math textbooks. Glue the question on the left side of the strip and glue the answer choices to the right of where it says “Need a Little Help.” When you’re using the cards, just fold the answer choices over and secure them with a paper clip.  If you’re students need a little scaffolding, let them know they can check out the answer choices


You’re an amazing teacher, and amazing teachers are always looking for the best resources! In fact, that’s how my business started! I didn’t have resources that were quite right for my students, so I ended up making them myself. I spent TONS of time creating exactly the resources I needed!

Hopefully this blog gave you a few ideas of how you can use what you already have to make the specific resources you’re looking for without completely reinventing the wheel! You can download all of the templates I used in this blog by clicking here and connecting with me!

Do you have any other ideas to share! Leave your ideas in the comments!

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