When using any of the math mystery resources from my range as a class activity, I recommend pacing the case clue by clue rather than giving your students all of the five clue worksheets in one go. By pacing the clues, it will stop some students from racing too far ahead of the rest, while others are left behind. Turning a math mystery into a competition has its benefits, and certainly is still a fine approach to using these if you prefer to give all five clues in a booklet format for students to work on at their own pace. However, in this post, I aim to outline five tips with suggestions that will help set up ALL of your students for math mystery success!
A few of the mysteries in my Math Mystery range are structured differently by following a 5 W's Case File Format. These are particularly useful for younger students or special needs. In this post:
NEW 5 W's LOGO LABEL ON COVERS
To enable you to quickly identify if a math mystery follows this 5 W's structure, I've added a new little logo somewhere on the covers. If this is the type of math mystery structure you would prefer to use with your kids, keep an eye out for this little image below:
GRADE LEVEL GUIDES
The grade levels are marked for recommended age ranges because of the math involved within the mystery packet. Unlike the regular math mystery range, because these tend to focus on early learning skills, they can be used across K-2 depending where your students are at. For example, in the Case of the Great Zoo Escape, the packet focuses on addition and subtraction within 20. This is a skill that would be useful for both first and second graders to practice and build fluency. The packets marked for Kindergarten, contain basic numeracy skills, and would be great for the early part of first grade too. Even with the grade guides, I still recommend checking the math skills required in the product description to determine suitability for your students since no class is the same.
For some younger students, the elimination process in my regular math mystery range is a little bit too much. This is where these packets come in handy; if you still want the fun element of a mystery, but in a less stressful format for your little detectives.
Instead of the usual list of suspects/locations/scenarios, in the 5 W's series, that page is replaced with a case file with five questions to be answered - Who, Where, When, What, and Why? (see image below).
Each clue requires some math work and some ELA work to solve which of the options at the bottom need to be cut/pasted to the Case File.
âBelow is an example from the Case of The Super Bad Superhero:
As you can see in the clue example page above, there are five options at the bottom of the page. Students must complete the math activity to figure out what is the super power of the super bad superhero. Once solved, the student must cut out the super power and paste it onto their Case file page in the 'What - Clue 2' box.
Reading and explaining the instructions at the top is recommended for the early years, especially if using with Kindergarten.
Tip: Guide them through each clue to keep the whole class at the same pace.
CHECK OUT A FULL MATH MYSTERY IN THIS 5 W's FORMAT FREE!
I like to offer samples of my work to help you know whether it is something that you are interested in, or if it works for your class.
CLICK HERE to find where to download the 'Case of the Super Bad Superhero' for Kindergarten, using this 5 W's format.
If you've found the other math mystery structures too difficult for your students, then you may prefer this alternative.
Your feedback on this structure would be most appreciated. I will be making more using this 5 W structure for the early years too. If you prefer this format, keep an eye out for the little logo on the cover to know that it follows that format.
If you use Math Mysteries, however hate the amount of paper that is required with all of the photocopying, you may like to try this reusable idea to save paper in the long run.
A bit more prep is required at the start, but then a simple wipe and store away is required for the next time you want to use the case.
- Copies of the mystery pages (story, suspect list, clue pages, and the optional declaration page). Decide how many copies of a single case you would need at a time.
- Laminating pouches + a Laminator
- Manila 'Case File' Folders. One folder for each mystery set.
Now your case files are ready for use!
Complete the mystery using a washable marker as in the image examples below:
Once the mystery is solved, grab a damp cloth or a bit of water on some paper towel/tissues to wipe all of the pages clean.
Let the pages dry and put back into the folder. The mystery is ready to be used again.
While the initial prep for this requires a little bit more effort, the extra step is worth it if you are trying to save on ink and paper in the long run.
In the sample images, I used the Math Mystery 'Case of the Super Bad Superhero.' Download this fun Math Mystery resource for FREE HERE!
What is a Math Mystery?
With Easter nearby, I thought it would be fun to do a little number mystery with a simple egg twist! Use this idea as a:
The prep is easy, and I have already put together some clues sets for you to use if you wish. Continue reading to find the free download for this activity.
The AIM is for students to use the clues given to solve which egg is the Mystery Egg! The clues will require them to use their number skills to eliminate possible eggs until there is only one egg left standing. The last egg remaining is the ‘Mystery Egg!’
They will only get one crack at picking the right egg. So they must read the clues carefully and be confident about their answer before opening an egg or telling you which egg they think is the right one.
CLICK HERE to download this freebie from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.
Looking for more Easter Math Activities & Challenges that will engage and challenge your class?
Easter Math Mystery: Case of The Rotten Eggs
Easter Math Quest: Raiders of The Lost Egg
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First, SET THE STAGE TO ENGAGE!
Each Math Mystery begins with an opening one-page story (as in the image below). The story sets up the mystery and has been designed to engage students. We are now also creating VIDEO HOOKS for the math mysteries, which are an optional extra that can be used to introduce your class to the activity and ‘hook’ them into the math work. (View an example Video Hook below too).
CHOOSE to use either the written story or video hook to introduce the activity to your students. You could choose to use both if you wish.
AN EXTENSIVE LIST OF POSSIBILITIES!
Each Math mystery for 2nd grade and up comes with a long list of possible solutions to the mystery component of the activity (see image A). The 1st-grade math mysteries come with fewer options and visual pictures instead (see image B). These are designed to make the guessing factor fun and large for the older grades. For the table list of suspects, you could assign a suspect to each student to make it extra exciting.
FIVE CLUE SHEETS WITH MATH QUESTIONS
Every math mystery in my range is consistent with having five clues to solve. Each clue sheet will require students to carry out math work. If the answers are correct, an important clue reveals in a message! If the clue doesn’t make sense, then students will know there are errors in their answers. The fact that these are practically self-checking also reduces teacher marking time...YAY!!!
To quickly and easily find out the math skill covered in each clue, check the product description of the math mystery grade version you would like.
The clue sheets (as long as it is the same clue number) are interchangeable between the 2nd to 8th-grade math mysteries (as long as the story title is the same); so you can swap pages around to tailor the mystery to suit your learners and differentiate within your classroom. For example, in the image below.
You can try this out with the free mystery at the end.
On top of all the math questions embedded into the mystery, critical thinking is an additional must to solve the mystery component of the activity. Upon discovery of a clue, students must read, comprehend and think about what the clue means for them to do with the LIST given. It doesn’t always tell you who or what to cross off; sometimes it is giving you a clue as to who to keep instead! Some clues can be quite tricky (but make for great discussions). The clues are sometimes straightforward and easy to interpret with what to do, others can be in a riddle form (like the one below), that will require an extra step in thinking about the elimination step.
"A LADY WAS ABLE TO SCARE OFF THE ANTIHERO WITH COOKIES'
If a lady was able to scare the antihero away with cookies, then the Super Bad Superhero MUST HAVE a weakness to cookies. Some students may accidentally cross off all suspects with a weakness to cookies. However, it SHOULD be to cross off all suspects that have a weakness to something else and KEEP only suspects with a weakness to cookies.
By the end of the five clues, if done correctly, only one row will remain. That row provides the answer to the mystery!
Once students declare the correct mystery answer, you have the optional award provided within the download that you can give to them.
If the student gets the correct mystery answer, only a glance over the completed clue sheets is all the marking you will need to do.
MULTIPLE USES FOR THE CLASSROOM OR AT HOME
There are multiple uses for math mysteries. These included, but are not limited to,
DOWNLOAD A FREE MULTIPLE GRADE LEVEL MATH MYSTERY TO TRY!
Download directly above or find it in my TPT store HERE to download for free. Video hook included!
If you have used one of my math mystery packets, you are probably aware that most of the stories come in different grade levels. If you haven’t used one yet, I will show you where to get a free copy later in this post. Because I designed the grade levels in a way to enable use for differentiation purposes, the mystery solutions are the same in all. What I didn’t plan for was the fact that so many of you wonderful teachers are using these math mysteries in your classrooms and the possibility of running into a class (or some students) who have done a particular math mystery story before are beginning to happen. Also, some feedback has suggested that other grade levels want to use these activities, but don’t want to do so in case one class spills the solution beans to another class who hasn’t done it yet. So, I’ve taken all of this on board and have added ‘Editable suspect/location/cure/scenario lists’ to all of the mystery packets. With the editable file, I have also added two bonus pre-made alternative lists. In this post, I will explain this new update, including how to make yourself a new list.
THE CLUES WILL STILL BE THE SAME SO KEEP ‘COMBOS’ THE SAME
Although the final solution is changeable, the clues will need to remain the same. For this reason, the combinations in the columns (except for column 1) should stay as they are.
*A ‘combo’ is the information given in columns 2- 6,
An example from 'Case of The Super Bad Superhero' is circled below:
You can change the row position of a combo; in fact, I recommend shuffling the rows as well as changing names in column 1. But altering these too much can collide with the clues. So, if you do make some minor adjustments to the details, please check that the elimination process still works with the clues of the mystery.
EDITABLE LISTS ONLY AVAILABLE FOR MATH MYSTERY PACKETS GRADES 2 and up
The Kindergarten and first-grade math mysteries do not have this update due to the different set up of this section for those versions. However, this shouldn’t be a problem because the Kindergarten ones are completely different in process and solution anyway, and the first graders will be the first to do a story of its kind.
NAME CHANGING IN THE FIRST COLUMN
Change the names of suspects, locations, cures or even scenarios to your liking. Add your students’ names, familiar location names or throw in some new made-up names. If you have time, a fun idea may be to invite your students to come up with some ideas for the list. The only thing that you may need to be careful of is labeling something in column 1 with a combo row that obviously doesn’t add up and may confuse students.
For example, if you put in column 1 “The Forbidden Forest,” but location type is marked as ‘beach’ in that row, your students will probably raise an eyebrow.
SHUFFLE TO KEEP STUDENTS GUESSING
I recommend shuffling rows and mixing column 1 labels with the combos. Doing so, is particularly important if you know that your students have already done the math mystery story you are about to attempt. Shuffle the rows, and either alter the names/titles in column 1 or shuffle the column 1 names around to match up with a new combo.
An easy way to do a ‘SHUFFLE’ is to use the blank list template provided on page 4 in the editable file.
8 EASY STEPS TO SHUFFLE IT UP!
2 Duplicate the original list on page 2 above the copy of the blank template you made in step 1. The original list from 'Case of The Super Bad Superhero' is below.
3. Note the mystery answer of the original list on page 3.
4. Cut the combo of the mystery answer from your Page 2 copy and paste in a new row position on your blank page.
5. Either choose a different name in column 1 from the original list to pair with the ‘answer combo’ or write new ideas into column 1. I put 'Exampletron' in the image example above. Now, this is your new Mystery Solution Answer and must be the final row remaining after the revealing of all five clues.
6. Continue to cut and paste combos from the original list into different rows of the new blank page.
Tip: It's best to 'cut' and paste, rather than 'copy' and paste, so that you know which combos you have done already. This is the reason for the duplicating suggestion made in Steps 1 and 2 (so you have the original templates still in tact for next time).
7. After all combos have been transferred to the new page, you can either cut and paste column 1 names and pair them up with a new combo row on your list, or make up new names for column 1.
Below is an example of a new one I made, which is included in the 'Case of The Super Bad Superhero' packet to use as a ready-made alternative list.
8. Finally, check by reading the clues in the answer section of the math mystery and trying out the elimination process yourself to make sure only one row remains at the end.
USING THE PRE-MADE ALTERNATIVE LISTS
Within the editable PPT document for every packet download, pages 5 and 6 contain two NEW lists that automatically are set to give a different mystery solution. I made these so that if you do discover that you need a different mystery solution, but do not have the time to carry out the steps above, you can quickly just print one of those off and swap out with the original. On page 1 within the editable file, there is a section that briefs you on the mystery answer solution for each pre-made list. I've circled where to look for it in the Case of The Super Bad Superhero example . . . this is set up the same way as editable files in all of the other math mysteries.
Unless your students have brilliant memories and remember all of the clues to make the exact answer combo of a specific mystery, this mix-up of final solutions should keep them guessing until the end. A lot of combos are similar, so it would be tough to remember the exact combination (but, certainly not putting it past any photographic memories out there).
All new math mysteries I make will now also contain the editable list to carry out these changes.
GRAB the multi-grade bundle of the math mystery 'Case of The Super Bad Superhero' completely FREE to try out! It also comes with the editable list and two pre-made alternative lists!
A 21st century School Teacher, Mother, and Wife.
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