Pre-planning: purchase tiny sticky notes in a variety of colors (I found a block containing 5 different colors at Walmart for less than $2.00), 5 - 6 prizes (optional - I got head bands from the local Dollar Store), candy to fit the theme (optional - I picked up gold coins and black salsa bowls that reminded me of a leprechaun's pot of gold)
Create two slides, one with clipart depicting images related to the significant event and another with a hundreds chart (I copied and pasted from online).
Compile of playlist of theme music (optional - I used YouTube to find fun Irish Jig Music).
Day of - prior to students arrival: Arrange desks in groups of 5 - 6, place. Place sticky notes in the center of arranged desks giving only one color per group. Distribute candy. Pull up slide presentation. Begin music.
Day of - students arrive: Direct them to seats. Pause music when the bell rings (first song was 5 minutes which coincided with our bell). Identify the date and explain its significance. Give clear directions about how the activity will work. Have students divide sticky notes so that everyone in their group has the same color. Provide examples of how to create different numbers using only the digits provided.
During the activity: Resume music and stand at the hundreds chart o check the notes as students place them on the board. Help clear up any misconceptions groups may have regarding exactly how to write the equations. yesterday, one group only wrote "17" which was incorrect, because the other digits, 8 and 3, were not included.
Ending the activity: When the music ends, the activity is over. The music I used ran for 8 minutes - a bit longer than most bell ringers, but enough time for groups to get a good number of sticky notes on the board. I spot checked the board to verify that the bulk of sticky notes contained correct equations and removed any that did not. One person from each group, counted their groups respective colored notes. The group with the most sticky notes on the board won.
You know it is a success when: kids are smiling and doing math AND you over hear an 18 year male athlete state, "This is fun!"
Disclaimer: It is not necessary to have fancy a slideshow, music, candy or prizes to use this idea. I over-complicate things often, but I like to make math an "event". I teach Dual Enrollment Algebra and Trigonometry and if I can figure out a way to make it different once or twice a month, I seize the opportunity. It is part of the fun of teaching for me. This activity works just as well without all of the fluffy stuff. When we did it in our grad class, we had a date written on the chalkboard, a brief explanation about its significance, colored sticky notes and a paper hundreds chart. It still had value and it still was fun.
I look forward to hearing how you incorporate the idea into your classroom.