Math Hunt – Time for Targeted Help

Do not delay, try this activity NOW.

Whenever I discover an activity that lets all students in my class work at their own level while I get to assist students that need extra attention I have to share it.  I know that many other teachers are already using this activity, but for those who have not yet discovered it, I must insist that you try it now.

A great friend of mine who is an amazing teacher uses this game regularly in public school with classes of 35 students, and it works for her.  She has been telling me about the virtues of this activity for two years (thanks Les!), but it always seemed like too much work so I didn’t try it.  I was wrong.  It is not much work at all.  It is very easy to plan, and the kids love it.  But, best of all, it is an activity where every student in your class will be challenged at their level.


  1. Make up at least 16 math problems.  (I would do more if I had a larger class.)  Make them progressively harder.  Make the first few very easy and make the last few really tough!
  2. Print these 16 problems on one sheet of paper.
  3. Fold the paper in half.  The question is on the outside.  Write the answer on the inside so it is not visible.
  4. Assign each paper a number from 1 – 16, marked very visibly on the front.
  5. Place (tape/tack) these problems all around the room, but not in order.  This is where the “Hunt” comes in.  They have to find where the next problem is.
  6. Assign students a “start number” based on their ability level.  Struggling students would be assigned #1, advanced students #8.  I usually assign two or three students to each number to start.
  7. Students will go in order.  If they start with #5, the next problem they work with be #6.
  8. Students travel at their own pace – they do not have to wait on the other students that were assigned their number to finish the same problem.
  9. Have the students write down the question and all work on their own papers.  Once they are finished with a problem, they can check the answer.  If they miss it, they have to RE-work the problem.  If they can’t figure it out, they can call you over to help them out.
  10. Be sure to tell them that they will probably NOT finish all of the problems in a class.
  11. Some students WILL finish all of the problems.  When they come to you to tell you they are done, you can them make them “additional helpers”.  They walk around the class assisting students who need help using the work on their papers.  I do not tell students this in advance, as I don’t want them “racing” to get finished so that they can be a helper.

 Additional thoughts:

  • I taped beginning problems to the tables so that I could have room to sit with struggling students and help them.
  • I didn’t want to waste 16 sheets of paper so I printed out 16 problems on one sheet, cut the problems out, and then glued the problems to the outside of recycled paper.
  • Next time I am not going to make the easy problems #1.  I am going to make the easier problems start at #8 and then go from there.  (So the hardest problem would be #7).
  • I let students help each other as long as they are not just telling each other the answer.

You don’t have to make the last problems really hard, especially if you have a large class and aren’t going to have the time to help out your advanced students too.  Don’t feel bad about this.  When they “fly” through your problems, they get to help teach their peers.  And, we all know how much more we learn when we are teaching something.  Everyone still wins!  J

I did this activity so that I could work individually with struggling students and so that advanced students would get a chance to work on really challenging problems.   A fabulous side benefit of this activity was that my advanced students needed my help too!  These are students who usually “get everything” the first time and rarely need my help.  I was thrilled to get to work one on one with them as well.

I talked Elissa into doing this game today.  I really hope that it went well for her.  I am sure that she will make it better AND color coordinated.  I am hoping that she will blog about it as well because I am looking forward to stealing some ideas from her (hint, hint Elissa).

Suggestions Welcome!

Some of my students wanted a “prize” at the end for finishing.  I didn’t want to do this because not all students would finish and I did not want them to feel bad about that.  Plus, I didn’t want them to rush to finish (and feel like they just needed to get the right answer).  I wanted them to focus on the “process”.  But, there is usually something at the end of a scavenger hunt…

14 thoughts on “Math Hunt – Time for Targeted Help

  1. Here’s my link: I made it in Powerpoint and put two questions per slide. It’s adding and subtracting polynomials. I put the answer on the back of the next question. So if they did number 5, they go to number 6 and flip it up and find the answer to 5. I told the kids I was splitting them up so a huge group wouldn’t be crowded around one problem. Some of the weaker students skipped ahead and worked problems that I thought were harder than their level but hey, more power to them. None of my students finished but none of my students were bored and flew through them either. I am retesting tomorrow so we will see if the extra help paid off.

  2. Yes, beautiful and color coordinated. So, you typed them up in ppt and then printed them? I haven’t printed much from Powerpoint. I like how big the print was on your cards too.

  3. I did something like this (with only 6 levels because it was major last minute) and color coded to the colors of the rainbow. So red was easiest, purple was hardest. If they got through level purple then they got a “pot of gold” question as a bonus. It was fun! The kids enjoyed it and were able to practice problems at their level before moving up. I like the scavenger hunt aspect of yours, though 🙂

  4. I do something similar to this, but I put the answers to each question on another sheet. For example, question three’s answer might be on question seven. I mix them all up so the students don’t know the order.

  5. Kristen – I think I remember seeing a rainbow on your website! I am so late to the party with this scavenger hunt thing.

    Craig – so on the question card (say #3) do you put, “Go to question #7 to find the answer?” Elissa mentioned that she put the answer on the next question as well. Why did you both choose to put the answer on the next question? If they miss it, do they have to go back and try again? I’m very new at this game. : )

  6. I put the answer on the back of the next question so that students would move along to the next question a little faster and so that the have to actually do the work before finding the question. I monitored the lower level students more closely to make sure they were correcting mistakes but for the most part students would come to me when they got the answer wrong and the higher level students are good at catching their own mistakes.

  7. Hi there,
    I just found your blog by way of Web2.0 Journey. Thanks for your posts…I look forward to reading all of your ideas! I can’t wait to try out the above activity!

  8. Hey Lisa! So nice to “meet” you! Please tell me how it goes! And send pics if you can! My game was very last minute but we had a blast! Next time I think I will put the answer on the NEXT card like others have suggested. They will get to move around a bit more then. I like them up and moving…

  9. Pingback: Factoring with X-Puzzles and Boxes « I Speak Math

  10. I remember one of your stations posts from last year you put answer slips on the front board. What if you designate 2 walls and tables for the questions and 2 walls for the answers with the order all mixed up and at different eye-levels. That way it is still a scavenger hunt. They get an answer, search out answer key, if right go to next one, if wrong go back and fix it. Way more moving.

    • That sounds great! I usually put the solutions on the back of the station picture frames. But if it’s a more difficult concept I want them to go and find the answer so I know when they miss it and can help.

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