I have been using Peter Liljedahl’s Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics all year. I talked about the beginning of this adventure and shared some sorting cards that I planned to used with my class.

My sorting cards have been wonderful for most of my classes. I have classes of 26-30 students and the cards sort them perfectly. I have received a lot of questions about how to sort when you have fewer students. I sort as usual, then combine groups that are 1 or 2 students to form my groups of 3. I know some people don’t want that hassle.

I also have ONE class where a few boys will “cheat” and convince people to switch cards after an item has been selected. These boys do not work well together and their actions diminish the positive learning environment in my classroom.

This Google Sheet is the solution I came up with. It can really solve both of the problems listed above.

Random Group Picker Google Sheet

At first glance, you don’t notice that I have placed Bellatrix, Voldemort, and Yaxely in specific cells. They don’t work well together and I don’t want them to end up in the same group. Before class each day, I move them to different cells, but never together. Everyone else is randomly placed in the cells when I click randomize.

To select new groups:

- Place the names you DON’T want to move in the group you want.
- Type in the rest of your names
- Highlight the names
- Right click (command click) – view more cell actions – and select randomize range.
- DONE!

The great thing about grouping this way is the endless customization. Notice I don’t have a group 4. If you have smaller class sizes, you can decide how many groups you want and where you want groups to be. I used groups of 3, but you could make groups of 4. There are so many possibilities.

This isn’t as fun or engaging as the sorting cards although I display it on the projector and use the confetti cannon extension after it randomly selects.

My students LOVE the sorting cards, but sometimes you need an alternative. This was my solution. I hope you find it useful.