The math jar has "hands on" items pre-filled for exploration. The items in the jar are designed to reinforce concepts introduced in a lesson. There are questions in the jar that students need to answer, but this format is much more engaging than simple pencil and paper.
I found the plastic containers with lids at the Dollar Tree. Since I'm planning on Math Jars being a partner activity, I only needed to purchase 12. Then, I created labels on the color printer. A little Washi Tape around the center, and "voila"...all set to go.
The students dump the jar and sort out the materials. The materials should connect to the daily or weekly skills. This activity can be used for review as well...more about that later. Then, the partners discuss how they are going to set up the manipulatives. They can ask questions if they are stuck, but they should use visual cues located on anchor charts, etc. before just blurting out, "I don't get it." ~the most dreadful words...
I usually circulate with a clipboard to take anecdotal notes during partner and group activities. I want to take note of who is actively participating and who is taking a back seat. I also write down formative assessment data.
While I'm circulating (some other adults in the room may be circulating or gathering a small group if needed), the students should be pulling the question strips out of the jar. Each student has several copies of the "Math Jar" activity mat in his/her binder. Then, the partners cooperatively talk through the process of the problem strip. When they have collectively decided on an answer, each student must write on his/her own activity mat.
Each student draws a picture of what they did with the materials. Next, they each copy down the original problem and fill in the answer that they got using the manipulatives. Last, they work together to design a few sentences explaining what they did. They are encouraged to use math vocabulary (again...look around the room!), but the explanation should be written in their own words.
Ideally, I would like to go over each problem strip together in class, but time doesn't always allow for that. So, there will be times when I collect the activity mats and assess the progress. The activity mat goes home with students each day, complete and correct, to assist with homework.
Math Jars as a review activity is extremely beneficial. As we get rolling through the year with this, I will put several different kinds of manipulatives in the jar. The students have to make a decision on which items to use to solve the problems. Often, there is more than one way to get to the answer. I'm definitely going to use this activity just prior to Common Core State Tests!