It's fantastic to see so many teachers and parents worldwide using my math mystery resources with their kids. I've been creating these mystery math activities for over seven years and selling the packets on my TPT store and website shop. I've read feedback comments left on these math resources; while I've seen it successful for most, I'll be honest in saying that a few encountered a problem or two. If this includes you, there's a chance that you might be making one of these math mystery mistakes. Read on to find out how to avoid these common math mystery mistakes and make the most out if these math resources.
1. Do not assign a math mystery with content not yet covered
Math Mysteries are ideal to use as a consolidation and/or review activity. The problem is, if you assign a mystery with math content that you haven't yet covered with your class, it's going to be tough, and your kids will likely lose interest. Always be sure to pick mysteries with math skills that your kids are ready to do independently or in pairs. If you find that there is math content beyond your class, either teach it first in a few sessions or work as a class through it. Sometimes there are clue substitutes from other grade levels available to swap out. For more information on this, check out the blog post: How to differentiate with Math Mysteries
2. Do not give the whole math mystery packet in one go
If you provide all of the math mystery worksheets in one shot, your students may:
- quickly become overwhelmed with the amount of work
- skip ahead with clues
- your class will not all be up to the same point in the mystery, so your fast workers might spoil the solution before the rest of the class finish.
I recommend giving your students one clue at a time. Check for completion and elimination understanding before giving them the next worksheet clue. To keep it from becoming overwhelming for some kids or having your kids scattered at different parts, pacing it a clue a day works great. There are always five clues, so you can make it a mystery of the week to work through.
3. Do Not do the clues out of order
The clues are usually riddles that will give some vital information about eliminating suspects from the possibilities list. Students must complete the puzzles from Clue 1 - Clue 5 for the elimination process to work correctly. If you decide that you still don't want to use the worksheets in order of number, you will need to hold back the possibility list until your students complete all five clue puzzles.
4. Do not Use Pen for eliminating possibilities
Mistakes happen! If you accidentally cross off a suspect, you want it to be easy to erase so that there is no confusion about which suspects (locations or cures) remain. Otherwise, you are going to be needing extra suspect list copies to hand out, which will become increasingly frustrating if pen is the writing tool.
5. Do not assume that every clue is only telling you what to cross off
Clue misinterpretation is a common mistake! The clue riddles, sometimes, are sometimes tricky. If you are not used to my style of clues, you might find yourself falling into the trap of only crossing off what the clue is stating. You MUST read and comprehend the clue riddle carefully; sometimes, it is hinting WHAT needs to keep on the list; thus, you will need to determine the alternative to cross off.
In the Free Math Mystery, The Case of the Super Bad Superhero, one of the clues reveals that a lady could scare off the bad hero with cookies. Looking at the suspect list and reading the clue, detectives, you can conclude that our guilty suspect has a weakness to cookies. Here is where the mistake might happen - they eliminate the characters with a weakness to cookies instead of the other way around! If your guilty character has something stated, you should be crossing out the other options and keeping only characters with a weakness to cookies as the possible Super Bad Superhero!
For more information, read this blog post that explains a guide to a clue in the Case of the Litterbug.
Sure Math Mysteries can sometimes be tough! I designed them to reward hard work and persistence. I like to challenge students, and it's incredible how far they can go if you set the bar high. Just be sure to avoid the common math mystery mistakes I've outline above. With a bit of guidance and practice, these math activities can be a great addition to your classroom consolidation and review tools. After one or two, your kids will be super detectives in no time! Try one free <here>!
A 21st century School Teacher, Mother, and Wife.
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