Monday, June 16, 2014

Culminating Project: Scavenger Hunt!

I've been really intrigued, lately, by the idea of having students create a product for someone other than me (the teacher, the evaluator). For our math culminating project, I decided to do something a little different than just review questions or a giant applied question (both of which have merit, by the way, but I wanted to try something very different for this class).

I put it past the students what they would like to do as their project, and they - half-jokingly, I think - came up with the idea of a contest between our MFM2P (grade 10 applied) math class and the other MFM2P class in the school this semester. I loved the idea of getting the two classes together on a common project, and the idea of a quiz-up morphed into something a little more hands-on: a school-wide scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunt clues

The Logistics

The details of the project can be found here, but basically, Paul (the other MFM2P teacher) and I split each of our classes into four groups. Each group in my class would create a scavenger hunt for each group in Paul's class, and vice versa.

Each hunt had to have at least nine checkpoints/clues, and had to cover all five of the units our two classes had in common. Students were in charge with coming up with the checkpoint locations as well as the math questions to get them there. They were also responsible for obtaining permission where needed, and testing the whole hunt to make sure it would run smoothly.

The Planning

We had a LOT of fun planning the hunts. We started with brainstorming places for clues, and I loved the great ideas the students came up with: hiding clues in unused lockers (where the search party would have to decode both the locker number as well as the lock combination to get inside); placing a question, embedded in a QR code, on the school's empathy dog's collar; getting other teachers to be clue-keepers; clues inside strategically-placed books in the library; a clue in icing on a giant cookie... and many less feasible ones as well :)
Even Math Teacher Paul was a clue!
It wasn't just the creativity of the location of the clues that amazed me, but also the clues themselves: measuring water flow from a water fountain; finding the intersection point of two lines overlaid on a map of the school; finding a basketball in the gym and calculating the radius by measuring the circumference; measuring the slope of the stairwell; code-breaking, and pacing out certain numbers of steps down various hallways.

It was great getting students out of their chairs (and out of the classroom!) as they scoped out locations and made measurements for their clues. It was a very active time, and I enjoyed seeing the students exert their independence.
One of the clues. Love the "trigonometree!!"

Students came up with questions partly by looking at their learning goal exit slips from the year, and partly off the top of their heads. Working backwards to create a question with a given answer was a very new process for them, as well as wording the questions. While they enjoyed being able to choose what learning goals they wanted to include, all groups needed help in organizing their questions to make sure they had a scavenger hunt that flowed well from clue to clue.

The Hunt

The day of the hunt was very exciting - students could barely stay in their seats for instructions! Some final touches to the clues (including providing me with a solution set), and then some time setting up their clues around the school, and we were ready for the swap.

For the most part, students dove right into the challenge. Groups exchanged their first clues and then took off through the building to find the next checkpoints. I found my students to be very conscientious, looking to double-check their answers with me before taking off for the next clue (they don't take the time to do that during regular classes!). They were persistent, rigorous, and enthusiastic - so great to see at the end of the school year! There were, of course, a couple of hiccups, but for our first time trying an activity of this scale, Paul and I were very pleased with how everything went.

Improvements for Next Time

Would we do this type of project again? ABSOLUTELY. It was a lot of fun for both the students and the teachers. However, there are a number of things we would do differently:

  • Some questions didn't make sense or didn't have enough instructions to go with them, and this was only discovered when a new set of students tried to solve them. As teachers, we would have to do a better job checking over the clues before we start.
  • Some students ended up not being ready to swap on the due date, so while most students were running around solving clues, one group was forced to wait until the next day to start. Not much fun for them - next time we would make sure all groups were ready to go, or re-assign the search parties to include everyone.
  • Some clues got destroyed - rain soaked one of the outdoor clues, while our school empathy dog ate another one (I can't make this stuff up!). We'll have to have a clue-checking system in place in the future.
  • One group experienced frustration and gave up part way through the hunt. However, the frustration was not because they had trouble solving clues, but because the scavenger hunt they made was giving grief to another group, who kept calling on them to explain where to go next or what to even do in the question. This was the first time many of these students had to be accountable not to their teacher, but to another group of students. The fact that the let their peers down affected them more than we could have predicted. 

On the whole, we loved seeing the students work just slightly outside their comfort level. I'm always looking for new, BIG ideas like this to try. What big things have you done with your classes?


  1. Hi Heather!! A colleague directed me to your blog by using the subject line "Cool math ideas." When I got here, I thought to myself: "I think I know that girl!" If you remember back to your SCIOUT days, you might remember me! I have totally started following you on twitter, and I think you are doing really excited stuff in your classroom. I'm looking forward to exploring the rest of your blog, and learning more about your adventures in the classroom!! Stephanie (Burns) :)

    1. So wonderful to hear from you, and can't wait to catch up! Peace out, SCIOUT!!


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