Like most math teachers, David Perez, an Integrated Math III teacher at Colegio Decroly Americano in Guetamala was finding it hard to engage his students around complex math concepts.
It’s not that he lacked the passion, he had multitudes of it, it was more that he needed a way to apply advanced math to real world situations. The age old teenage question, “When am I going to use this in my life!?” wasn’t going away anytime soon.
CoVid-19 provided that real world context.
Students were suddenly more interested in data sets, and how mathematicians and scientists used them to track and prevent the spread of the disease. Why did CoVid spread more quickly in certain age populations more than others? How was it transmitted and how did understanding the quantitative data help us take more informed measures?
David used student interest in this kind of data to create a project around an entirely different set of data: Crime Investigation. His students would gather a multitude of data and use complex math formulas to solve a heinous crime at the very school he taught at: ‘Who Killed the Teacher?’ (Don’t worry it’s pretend)
The Murder Mystery Project
David piqued student interest on Day One of the project launch. Using a gif from CSI, big hair 60’s rock backing tracks, and a virtual taped off crime scene background in a simple Google Slide Deck, David watched as students read the flashing headline: ‘There’s been a murder at CDA. Betsy’s body was found lifeless in the ICT room. Your job is to figure out who killed her.”
This was certainly not the typical math class students were used to. Unlike a traditional math class where the teacher explained the assignment, passed out a few worksheets, and started lecturing from the front of the room, students would have to guide themselves through a series of carefully timed virtual clues. Clues included potential suspects, victim body temperatures, and timetables on the day of the murder. The students’ job as leading crime scene investigators, was to piece the clues together.
To give the project even more relevance and provide additional guidance, the integrated math team even brought in a leading forensic investigator to provide background on how he uses math to solve real crimes.
Don’t worry if you have trouble remembering math concepts beyond 8th grade (that’s me for sure), here’s all you need to know:
That’s the ‘dead’ easy formula you have to solve. You just have to find the missing letters.
Managing the Project in a Hybrid Environment
To manage the project in a hybrid environment, David loaded everything into a hyperlinked Google Slide Deck: ‘Who killed the teacher_ – Math PBL Unit (1).’ Here, students would learn the temperature of the body at the time of death; clues to determine the victim’s time of death; and some pictures that helped reveal further evidence. Each clue or ‘task’ related specifically to a math concept and corresponding mini-lesson. Students would need each clue to piece together the crime and present their solution in a Wakelet.
Here’s one of the sample tasks:
It’s not every day that student’s get to speak with the country’s leading crime investigators. This alone transformed what was already an engaging task, into one that had connection to real world issues. Students who were generally bored or disengaged, acted as group leaders. The project allowed room for the creative artist, who used visual clues to help re-create the crime scene; the imaginative storyteller, who used time logs to create their version of the events that day; the analytical auditor, who used witness testimonial to eliminate potential suspects; and of course the data driven mathematician, who used missing data to piece relevant formulas.
And, as is the case with any successful project, it lives well beyond its expiration date…W
The project is so popular that we will be sharing it at the Conference ‘Live Curious 2021!’ – Sheila Escobedo, High School Assistant Principal
How might you create a crumb trail of clues to excite and ignite your learners?
When traditional math meets real world relevance and the virtual tools to drive it, you have the ingredients for a world class project!
If you want to learn more about the project, get a hold of Betzy, the project co-designer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or see the presentation at the ‘Live Curious 2021’ Conference. Registration is free!
Sometimes all we need is a tiny idea to spark creativity in our classrooms and connect our subjects to real world scenarios that make our students’ learning more meaningful and engaging. Let’s think about what our students like, what they are acquainted to, things that they can easily make connections with, their context!
Congratulations to David Pérez all the way to Guatemala for stepping out the traditional and making Math meaningful to his students.
Inspirational Betzy! You planted the seed.