I've written quite a few times about bell ringers in my classroom. Generally, the smartest student in the group does the bell ringer while the rest of them stare blankly in the general direction of the paper.

In the past couple weeks I have tried something new.

It's called the perfect challenge and it tests students on perfect squares 1-20.

I did not create this file but it is an Excel file with seven tabs. Each tab is two half sheets with numbers 1-20 squared on it and they are in a different order on each tab. I added the eighth tab as a chart of how I record my students progress. We start with a goal of the whole class scoring 100% in under two minutes with a calculator. We work down to eventually the whole class scoring 100% in under one minute without a calculator.

The students have liked it a lot better. Everyone is participating, everyone is engaged, and everyone is working on memorization. Also, since I am timing it, the whole process takes less than 3 minutes compared to 10-12 minutes with the bell ringers. We trade and grade with a student reading the answers out loud. I collect them and record the percent of students who made a 100% and that what goes into my chart. Once they reach 100%, we move to the next category. A lot of students have started competing with themselves, trying to beat their own time.

I've liked it so much that I've decided to do perfect cubes next. There is just something about an entire class flipping their papers at the same time and eagerly writing that a math teacher comes to love.

And of course, being the all or nothing person I am, I've already been thinking about doing this all next year instead of bell ringers.

What are some other things high school students should memorize?
  • Perfect squares
  • Perfect cubes
  • Decimal equivalents of fractions
  • Common formulas
  • Reducing fractions
  • LCM and GCF

This is all I've come up with so far and I would love your input!


  1. I love this idea! I do minute drills daily with my students, generally after the warmup, and I love how they always try to beat their previous score! If you think of it as speed challenges rather than memorizing, you could include things like reducing fractions, changing percentage to decimals, etc.

    1. Great idea! How do you set it up? How many days in a row do you do the same concept? How do you record? What other concepts do you do? I would love to know more.

    2. I have class sets of 10 different colors of paper and they progress at their own pace through each, rather than as a class. They repeat the same topic until they reach a preset standard, such as 25 correctly reduced fractions in one minute.

      I wrote up the details on recording and the links to the files last year, so it's changed a bit, but you should be able to get the idea.


    3. Thanks so much for the link! That sounds exactly like what I am wanting.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion. I think I will do the square roots of perfect squares, since we have been doing difference of two squares. Hopefully it will help them be able to recognize them quicker!

    1. Kristin,
      I've already decided that since all of mine are written as numbers squared that once we're done, I'll give them the square root of perfect squares to make sure they recognize they are the same.

  3. I do timed exponent tests with the first column being to the 2, 3, 4. Second column is to a fraction 2/3 1/3, etc and third column is to the negative integer or fraction. It is good. Gets them ready for logs

    1. How much time do you give them? Seven columns or more seems like a lot to complete.

  4. This sound like a wonderful idea! I think I will start it next week, to give myself time to prepare!