If you have seen math mysteries around, been interested, but are unsure how to implement them in your classroom, then this post is for you! A FREE mystery for you to use at the end is also included.
Math Mysteries are an exciting and easy way to get lots of math practice and review in within the classroom. Because it is important that students get the answers right, it is also a useful tool to assess how well your students understand the math content prepared in the mystery. If they are not able to crack the codes or discover the clues, then you can easily begin to see which content areas may need to be addressed again.
I've designed these to be a simple NO PREP activity. So all you have to do is print and go. Then choose one of the ways outlined below to use in your classroom if you wish.
1. Independent activity
- You can pace the activity by only giving each clue out as one is completed, or
- you can give the entire mystery as a booklet or put in a case file and allow students to work through it as they wish.
It is IMPORTANT to note that the clues must always be completed in the order I have put them in (1-5). Otherwise, if you want to do the clues in a different order, I would recommend not giving the suspect list out until all five clues are completed before doing the elimination process.
Doing these independently, is a great choice for consolidation, review, or assessment. You may like to add these as part of a regular math lesson, early finisher work, or to keep handy in the sub tub.
2. Group Work
- Mixed ability groups work best if you choose to have everyone working on the same math mystery grade level,
- otherwise you can purchase different grade levels of the same mystery and use to tailor the mysteries for same group levels. I don't grade level mark the actual worksheets, so you can keep levels a secret still. For example for a fourth grade class, you may wish to give a grade 5 version for your advanced students, grade 4 version for your in the middle students and the grade 3 version for your students who need it a bit easier. You can also tailor it better by clue swapping across the grade 2 - 6 versions because the clues are interchangeable (as long as the clue number is the same). In the free mystery download, you will be able to get a variety of levels to test try doing this. Please feel free to contact me (email@example.com) if you want any further help with how to do this.
Again, this is as easy as print and go, with the added part of organizing the groups.
Add an extra element of fun by making it a competition on which group can solve the mystery correctly first!
3. Math Centers
1. Set up one clue per math center, you could base the whole lesson around all five clues; or
2. Set up one of your centers with a single math clue, do a new clue for each day of the week as a center activity.
Students complete the clue at the center, and then make sure to keep the clue they have discovered with them. Do not give the list for elimination until all five clues have been completed for students to solve the mystery.
This is a great option if you would like to:
- pace out the activity
- add any hands on materials to help students through the math
- have students working together
- review a single skill that you would like to target for that lesson
(Optional) Add a bit more fun by adding some magnifying glasses, crime scene tape and detective hats if you wish!
4. Whole Class Activity
- Split the class into five teams. You could make the teams based on their math strength, then get each team to work on solving just one clue. Then, get the class to share their clues at the end to do the solve the mystery together.
- Work on one clue a lesson, and base the whole lesson around the math in it. For this choice, model and teach the math skill required to complete the clue. To save on copies, put the clue page up on the board and instruct students to copy the boxes with the numbers down, and then work through the questions in their workbooks. As they solve each answer, instruct them to place the paired letter with it so that they can complete the crack the code in their workbooks. I've included an image below showing an example. With this option, depending on the students ability and understanding, you may wish to work through the questions as a class, in pairs or independently and come together at the end to check and reflect.