Laura Zwahlen
Mathematics, Secondary Mathematics
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Upper Elementary, Middle School
  • Absolute Value
  • Cards
  • Deck of Cards
  • Distance From Zero
  • Game
  • Integers
  • Lesson Plan
  • Math
  • Mathematics
  • Number Line
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
    Media Formats:

    Education Standards

    Absolute Value of Integers

    Absolute Value of Integers


    This is a lesson plan created to assist in teaching integers and absolute value.  Here is an overview of this lesson:  (1) Hook: number line game to introduce absolute value.. (2) Teach: student notes, practice, and video to build knowledge.  (3) Apply/Assess: game using a deck a cards per partnership with teach observation.  

    Absolute Value of Integers © 2022 by Laura Zwahlen is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0



    This lesson is an introduction of the absolute value of integers.  The activities in the lesson can be completed in 40-50 minutes of whole group, face-to-face, & synchronous learning.  Students will then move into partnerships to complete a sort and play a game.  This lesson was created by Laura Zwahlen with a video from the Utah Education Network.

    Background for Teachers

    To teach this lesson, you will need an understanding of integers and a number line from -10 to 10.

    Watch this video by MathAntics to help inform if needed.

    Step 1 - Goals and Outcomes


    Learning Intentions:

    • Students will be able to explain absolute value, using a number line
    • Students will determine the absolute value of an integer

    Success Criteria:

    • Students will successfully play several rounds of Absolute Value war with a deck of cards.


    Step 2 - Planning Instruction


    Student Background Knowledge

    • Prior to this lesson, students will need to have an understanding of a number line, including integers from -10 to 10.

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    • If needed, teachers can print off numberlines (below) for students who could benefit from the visual and physical touch to see the distance the integer is from zero.

    Step 3 - Instruction

    1) Hook:

    Using a large number line, attach a piece of candy or other incentive to zero.  With a deck or cards, only using the number values, have 2 students randomly choose a card.  Red suits are negative and black suits are positive.  Students will then go and stand next to their number on the numberline.  Talk to students about who is closest to zero between the 2 students.  Whichever student is closer to zero, give that student the piece of candy.  

    Play again, attaching a new piece, but only let the first student choose a card.  Before having the second student choose, ask the class:

    What cards would win this game?
    What card, if you were choosing, would you hope to get?
    What card is the first student hoping the second student gets?
    What cards would make this game a tie?


    2) Teach:

    Using the attached notes, or notes of your own, teach about integers, the numberline of -10 to 10, and absolute value.   Include some practice problems to help students if needed.  Then, present the Math Shorts video from eMedia on Absolute Value.


    3) Apply:

    Using a deck of cards with only value numbers, students will then play Absolute Value War with their shoulder partner.  In this game, red suits are negative and black suits are positive numbers.  

    1. Students split the deck evenly.
    2. Without looking at their cards, each student flips over their top card.
    3. Students then compare their cards and determine which of them is closest to zero.  Whichever of the 2 is closest to zero, wins both cards and puts them on the bottom of their deck.  There are cases where each person puts down a card with the same absolute value.  (i.e. red 5 and black 5).  This means WAR and students both put 3 cards face down and flip over the 4th card.  Whoever wins out of that set gets all the cards from that round.
    4. Play continues until one person holds all the cards.


    Step 4 - Assessments


    While students are playing Absolute Value War, use this time to walk around.  While listening to groups, give them direct and specific feedback and help where needed.  While you do this informal assessment, take note of which students are struggling.

    Use the last 5-10 minutes to have students complete the exit ticket.  Give each student a scratch paper.  Before they leave the classroom, they need to hand to you their slip with 2 truths and 1 lie about absolute value.  This could be phrases, pieces written from their notes, or sample problems.  From the rubric below, give students a proficency level from their exit ticket.  Use this information to help guide your instriction for the following day.

    Rubric: 2 Truths & 1 Lie

    4 Beyond Proficient3 Proficient2 Approaching Proficiency1 Below ProficientNE No Evidence
    Student successfully completes 2 truths and 1 lie.  The information given shows student knows beyond the basics of absolute value.Student successfully completes 2 truths and 1 lie about absolute value.Student correctly identifies 2 of the 3 elements.  This could be 2 truths are correct but not the lie or that 1 truth and 1 lie are correct.Student correctly identifies 1 of the 3 elements or none of the 3 elements. Student shows a deficiency in understanding of absolute value.Student does not complete the task, giving no evidence of proficiency.