Math mysteries are a great tool to use for review; I know many teachers use them at the end of units or for spiral review. However, they can also be useful to help gauge what areas your students have mastered and what areas your students need to revisit in the classroom.
As with all math mysteries (in my range), there are five clues and each clue will require a certain skill to be able to discover the important information that will help lead to solving the case. If your students complete a clue with no fuss, you can safely assume that they have mastered that skill at the level given. However, if you notice students are struggling with a particular clue, then that is a concept you will need to tailor future lessons too.
Here's an example of my general process:
Once we reach a clue that I notice is too difficult for my students, I instruct the class to stop and prepare for a class ‘tutorial moment.’ I demonstrate an example or two from the clue page first, then invite a couple of students to demonstrate an example each, thinking aloud their strategies if possible.
After our board session, I instruct students to return to the mystery, and I walk around to continue observing who ‘gets it’ and who is still struggling with it.
--> If I find too many students are still struggling with the clue, then I know I need to organize and prepare more lessons working on that particular concept. So, I get everyone to STOP that particular clue, and we hang it on a wall as one of our 'Learning Targets'. After a couple of lessons focusing on the skill, we attempt the clue again to see if we can do it.
--> If the majority of students seem to get it after the board session, I make a note to revisit the skill soon to check they remember it. If there are only a few students who are still struggling with it, then I pull them aside into a small learning group and work with them on the skill while the rest of the class works independently.
The Math Mystery ‘Case of The School Invaders’ is great for this sort of assessment at the beginning of the new school year.
My Back to School Math Mystery called ‘Case of The School Invaders’ has been designed for this sort of assessment right at the beginning of the school year. It is a fun way to get your students back into the rhythm of math while helping you gauge their math abilities (to the extent of the skills covered in the packet at least). In the ‘Case of The School Invaders’ packets, the grade levels incorporate a review of math concepts based on the previous grade level requirements (this may vary depending on your curriculum, so please check in the item description what math skills are covered to see if it suits your standards). If you decide that you like using math mysteries as an assessment for learning instead of an end of unit review/post-assessment, you can always use earlier (or easier) grade level editions (if available) as a warm-up into a math unit. For example, if I wanted to begin working on addition skills with my third graders, I would use the second-grade edition of ‘Case of The Angry Adder,’ an addition focused math mystery, to begin the unit with my students. While they worked on it, I would observe to see if they have mastered earlier addition skills before moving on to new content OR if not, work on earlier skills before moving on to new content to make sure everyone will be set up for better success with new/ harder math work.
I have a math mystery FREEBIE available HERE if you would like to try before you buy. It comes in multiple difficulty levels.
Otherwise, the Back to School ‘Case of The School Invaders’ Packets are available through the picture links below. Also comes with a NEW Video Hook! The video hook is an optional extra you could use to set the stage to engage your new students into math this year!
Click the covers to find out more on my TPT store!
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A 21st century School Teacher, Mother, and Wife.
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