There is something about scavenger hunts that is captivating to a child. Something thrilling about searching for particular objects and checking items off a list in hopes of completing it before anyone else. The Math Scavenger Hunt takes these aspects of a traditional scavenger hunt, mixes in a healthy amount of math content, and creates an activity that students can’t get enough of!
The idea is simple. You pin ten to twenty problems around the classroom on whatever topic you’ve been covering. Each card has an answer in the top-right corner, but it’s the answer to another card. Students are able to start at any card. Once they find the answer, they have to go hunt for the card that has that answer in the top-right corner. Once they find it, that’s the next card they must complete. If students correctly solve each card, they should finish at the card they began with.
For all you visual learners, here is a very simple example. Picture each of the following four cards taped to a different wall in your classroom:
You start at any card. So let’s say you start on card three, which you write on a recording sheet. You figure out that -2 + 2 is zero. Now you go find the card with 0 in the corner, which leads you to card four. So after card three, you record that card four comes next. You figure out -2 – (-4) is positive two, so card two comes next. Since -3 – 3 is negative six, card one comes next. We’ve now been to all cards, so we can expect that the final card will take us back to where we started. Negative 4 plus two is negative two, which is card three–right where we started! Now, this would take many students about two minutes to complete. You would want about twenty cards with these types of short problems. With problems that would take students more time, you might shorten your activity to eight to twelve cards.
There is so much potential with using a Math Scavenger Hunt! Here are a few of my favorite strategies:
Cooperative Learning with the Math Scavenger Hunt
Students are up, out of their seats, running around the room, releasing the energy that has been building up all day, and completely engaged in completing Math problems. This is the perfect environment for cooperative learning! Students will naturally begin working together with their friends, which usually works out well as long as they remain focused on the task. To add more structure, you might limit groups to two to three working on the same problem. You could also pair students up to have lower and higher students working together. To ensure partners are both working together, you could give pairs only one recording sheet with the directive that they must switch who is writing for each problem.
Conceptual Understanding with the Math Scavenger Hunt
I make it imperative for students to show their work when completing the Math Scavenger Hunt. Otherwise, it’s easy for them to copy or just guess at answers. I allow students to draw pictures, create diagrams, write explanations, or any other method to show that they truly understand the math. For example, in the four integer addition and subtraction problems I showed above, I would have students draw a number line for each equation. I always create recording sheets for each scavenger hunt that I create with significant space for students to show their work.
Small Group Instruction with the Math Scavenger Hunt
While your entire class is actively engaged in this activity, you have a great opportunity to call a small group of four to five kids aside to work with you on small group work. You can work on anything you think they need extra practice on, or you can tie your focused instruction to the Math Scavenger Hunt. Choose one of the posted problems and make extra copies. Distribute these to your small group and guide them through solving the problem together. After they complete the problem, they can go find the next card together and work on it without your support!
Extending the Math Scavenger Hunt
So what do you do with the kids who blaze through the scavenger hunt, gets all problems correct, and shows their strategies in detail? Have them make their own Math Scavenger Hunts! Give them a couple parameters, such as four to six cards focusing on a specific skill. You could even require that two of the solutions are very similar. Your high achievers will have a blast figuring out the intricacies of making their own games!
Differentiating with the Math Scavenger Hunt
I love creating two-track scavenger hunts. They are basically two different ten-card scavenger hunts mixed together. The first track has ten basic problems and the second track has ten problems on the same skill but are more challenging. This gives students who need more practice with a skill the option to work on basic problems. Students who are comfortable with the skill can move on and be challenged. The first two Math Scavenger Hunts at the end of this post each contain two tracks.
Below are links to several Math Scavenger Hunts that I’ve created centered around seventh and eighth grade Math standards. Each set includes a recording sheet specific to that scavenger hunt, and I always include problems with similar answers to make sure students are truly solving the problems. Be warned: once you try one Math Scavenger Hunt with your students, they will beg and beg to do another!