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51 Esti-Mysteries

51 Brand New Esti-Mysteries!  Here they come!  5 Challenge Levels!  All New Images!


If you’ve used the Esti-Mysteries from the original Esti-Mysteries blog post, or the 15 additional Esti-Mysteries that I wrote for 20 Days of Number Sense and Rich Math Talk, you’ll really enjoy this new set!


I’m writing and releasing 51 Esti-Mysteries between now and December.

I’ll be adding new Esti-Mysteries every weekend until there are at least 51 for you to access on this post.




How do Esti-Mysteries work?

If Esti-Mysteries are new to you, or if you have any questions about how to use Esti-Mysteries, please see the Q&A section below Level 500.


One other quick note.


Along the way, you’ll notice that I’ve also written a 2-hour course, called The Esti-Mystery Creator Course, that you are welcome to purchase if you’d like to have my tools and learn how to create your own Esti-Mysteries that are tailored specifically for your students.  I’ve written quite a few Esti-Mysteries.  There are about to be 51 new Esti-Mysteries posted here, so you may have plenty without ever taking the course.  It’s a little tricky  to keep up with all of the specific requests for Esti-Mysteries, so I wrote the course so that anyone who wants to learn how to make their own – tailored specifically for their students – will have all the resources to do so.  If you are interested in learning how to write your own, you can find out more about the course here.


Also, if you would like to be notified when new Esti-Mysteries appear, please take a moment to subscribe to the blog.



Recommended:  Here is a set of downloadable charts which students can annotate with each clue.  Print out the charts and give each student their own copy of the chart.  You’ll find 4 variations of the chart.  Choose the ones that work for you and your students.

4 Printable Esti-Mystery Charts



51 Esti-Mysteries


Level 100  (Grades K-2)

Esti-Mystery 101 – “More Pieces Than You Can See”

Esti-Mystery 102  –  “Shiny Rings”

Esti-Mystery 103  –  “Bricks or Dominoes”

Esti-Mystery 104  –  “Flying Cars K-2”

Thank you to Kelly Rae Silvestri Clay’s 1st Grade Class for helping me decide on the title “Flying Cars!”

Esti-Mystery 105  –  “Something Fishy”

Esti-Mystery 106  –  “Red and Yellow”    (Brand New!  Posted October 14, 2019)


Esti-Mystery 107
Esti-Mystery 108
Esti-Mystery 109
Esti-Mystery 110
Esti-Mystery 111
Esti-Mystery 112
Esti-Mystery 113
Esti-Mystery 114
Esti-Mystery 115


Level 200 (Grades 1-3)

Esti-Mystery 201  –  “Domino Dots”

Esti-Mystery 202  –  “Bingo!”

Esti-Mystery 203  –  “Lighter than Bricks”

Esti-Mystery 204  –  “Length of Ribbon”

Esti-Mystery 205  –  “Rocky Vase”    (Brand New!  Posted October 14, 2019)


Esti-Mystery 206
Esti-Mystery 207
Esti-Mystery 208
Esti-Mystery 209
Esti-Mystery 210
Esti-Mystery 211
Esti-Mystery 212


Level 300 (Grades 3-8)

Esti-Mystery 301  –  “Not Carrot Sticks”

Esti-Mystery 302  –  “Countdown” 

Esti-Mystery 303  –  “String Beads”

Esti-Mystery 304  –  “Triangular Prisms”

Esti-Mystery 305  –  “Three Containers of Dominoes”

Esti-Mystery 306  –  “Flying Cars 3-8”

Esti-Mystery 307  –  “Blue Rocks”

Esti-Mystery 308  –  “Mirror, Mirror”

Esti-Mystery 309  –  “Erasing Numbers”    (Brand new!  Posted Oct. 14, 2019)


Esti-Mystery 310
Esti-Mystery 311
Esti-Mystery 312


Level 400 (Grades 3-12)

Esti-Mystery 401  –  “Facing Prisms”

Esti-Mystery 402  –  “Packing Peanuts”

Esti-Mystery 403  –  “Advanced Bingo”

Esti-Mystery 404
Esti-Mystery 405
Esti-Mystery 406
Esti-Mystery 407
Esti-Mystery 408
Esti-Mystery 409
Esti-Mystery 410
Esti-Mystery 411
Esti-Mystery 412


Level 500 (Challenge Level – Beyond the 51 new Esti-Mysteries)

Esti-Mystery 501
Esti-Mystery 502
Esti-Mystery 503
Esti-Mystery 504
Esti-Mystery 505
Esti-Mystery 506
Esti-Mystery 507
Esti-Mystery 508


Q & A


The 5 Most Frequently Asked Esti-Mysteries Questions I Receive


I love the questions, so please keep them coming!

Q1.  How do I get the Esti-Mysteries?

A1  Simply click on the hyperlinked titles above.  When you do, you may see the PPT file download to your computer.  If you don’t see it, check your download folder.


Q2.  The Esti-Mysteries are PowerPoint files, but I use Google Slides.  What do I do?

A2  Just save the PowerPoint file in your google drive.  Then open it with google slides.  I’ve used only animations that will work in both platforms, so once you open it with google slides, it will be completely ready.


Q3.  How do I use the Esti-Mystery?

A3.  I’ve made the Esti-Mysteries as user-friendly as possible.  When you have the file on your computer, simply open it and play the slide show (you’ll see why that is so important in the next answer) and follow the directions on the screen.


Q4.  When I come to The Reveal (shown below) I can’t find the answer.  How do I get The Reveal to show the answer?

A4.  Great question, and there is a really quick solution.  When you use the Esti-Mysteries, simply make sure the slide show is playing in its presentation mode.  For example, in PowerPoint, be sure to click on SLIDE SHOW then FROM BEGINNING.  If you are using Google Slides, click on VIEW then PRESENT.


When the slide show is playing, all of the animations will work as expected.  One of the key animations is that The Reveal box disappears and shows the answer which is beneath it.  If the slide show isn’t playing, the disappear animation won’t be activated.    The reason I’ve placed each answer beneath the reveal box is so that students won’t accidentally see it when you are opening up the file.


Q5.  How can I show the clues one at a time – instead of all at once?

A5.  This is actually the same answer as A1 above.  If all of clues are appearing at once, then the slide show isn’t playing.  Just follow the directions above and they will appear one at a time.


Q6.  Should the students use charts?

A6.  Yes.  In almost every case*, I recommend that students should use a chart, write on the chart to cross out numbers that have been eliminated by the clues – or circle the ones that remain as possibilities – and continue to estimate and discuss their reasoning  after each clue.


*There are some Esti-Mysteries, particularly in Level 300, Level 400, and Level 500 that require strategies that are more advanced than the use of the chart and/or are beyond the range of the chart.  In those cases, I recommend that students use the strategies that will be more effective, but I won’t include any spoilers here.  🙂


Q7.  What about whiteboards?  Can the students simply write their answer on whiteboards without using the charts?


A7.  For many other activities, I really like the use of individual whiteboards.  For example, The Estimation Clipboard is a great activity for individual whiteboards on their own.  However, for Esti-Mysteries, if that is the only tool that students are using – without an accompanying chart, then many of the Esti-Mysteries will become confusing for students. Follow the example below, and you’ll see exactly what I mean.


Below are the clues from the Esti-Mystery that is on my desktop right now.  Let me briefly take you through a journey that 2 students might experience.  Student 1 (with the chart) and Student 2 (without a chart)…


Before the first clue appears, both students select an estimate and then explain what number they chose and why they chose it.  They are likely both pointing to the picture as they explain their reasoning.  Let’s see what might happen after each clue appears to compare the experiences of these 2 students.


Student 1:  Using their chart, circles all of the multiples of 3, from 3 through 51.  (Notice that that experience is a useful practice in becoming familiar with the patterns and the multiples, and it allows the visual patterns on the chart to appear in a really interesting way.)
3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36, 39, 42, 45, 48, 51.
Student 1 looks at the list of multiples, looks at the image again, considers which of the numbers still on the list appears to be the most reasonable estimate.  Then the student chooses an estimate and explains what multiple they chose – and why they chose that number.


Student 2:  Thinks about a multiple of 3 that seems like a reasonable estimate and writes it on their whiteboard (or blank piece of paper) and explains what multiple they chose as their estimate – and why they chose that number.  (The estimate was 21)


Then clue #2 appears…



Student 1:  Using their chart, eliminates all of the multiples of 3 (between 3 and 51) that include the digit 1.
3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36, 39, 42, 45, 48, 51
Student A considers the remaining possibilities, returns to estimation based on the remaining numbers and the image.


Student 2:  Needs to write a new estimate.  Thinks about what number is a multiple of 3, but does not include the digit 1.  Thinks of a number that fits with both of those clues, and uses that number because it works – instead of truly revisiting the image and returning to estimation. (The new estimate is 33.)


Then clue #3 appears…



Student 1:  Using their chart, eliminates all the remaining numbers that include the digit 4.
3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36, 39, 42, 45, 48, 51
It takes about 10 seconds to do.
Student A considers the remaining possibilities, revisits the image, and focuses on which of the remaining numbers is the most reasonable.  Student A compares the image to the numbers and selects another estimate, and then explains to a partner what number they have now chosen – and why.


Student 2: Let’s say this time that the estimate that student 2 chose still works, so the student does not change the estimate.  (The estimate remains at 33.)


Then the next clue appears…



Student 1:  Quickly eliminates 3, 6, and 9 (because they are one-digit numbers) and 33 (because it does not include 2 different digits)
3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36, 39, 42, 45, 48, 51
Student A considers the remaining possibilities, the image, and focuses on which number is the most reasonable.


Student 2: Recognizes that 33 doesn’t work and needs a new estimate.  However, the student now needs to think back through all the layers of clues and try to think of a number that matches all 4 clues.  Student 2 is focusing on going back to find a number (possibly any number) that matches the clues…


Student 1 is focusing on the most reasonable estimate…


Student 2 is trying to hurry to find a number that matches the clues rather than focusing on estimation.  Student 2 settles on 30 because it matches the clues NOT because of that seems like the most reasonable estimate.  Notice that student 2 hasn’t actually engaged with estimation or the concept of 2-digit numbers and doesn’t have solid estimation reasoning to discuss.


Then clue #5 appears…



Student 1:  Quickly eliminates 30 and 36 on the chart (because they even numbers)
3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36, 39, 42, 45, 48, 51
Student A now knows that the answer is either 27 or 39, and focuses on which of those is the most reasonable.  This student is revisiting the picture, estimating, considering reasonableness, and discussing their ideas and hearing the ideas of others.  An important note here is that the other students or students in the conversation are also discussing 27 and 39, so they can have a rich conversation about reasonableness, the image, and those 2 specific numbers.


Student 2:  Needs to choose a new estimate.  So this student tries to think of a number that is an odd number… and includes 2 different digits… and does not include the digit 4 or the digit 1… and is a multiple of 3.  This student is not able to focus on estimation or reasonableness.  Instead the student is simply trying to find a number that works.


Worth noting:  There are some ways that a whiteboard on its own could be used effectively for this particular Esti-Mystery.  For example, I used a list rather than a chart as context for the comparison above.  Lists can work well when the sets are fairly small.  However, when the first clue is “The answer is an odd number between 1 and 100,” the use of a list is far less practical.


In the end, I recommend providing each student with a chart to use.


Q8.  Can I send you a specific math concept and have you write an Esti-Mystery around that concept?

A8.  I typically do my best to respond to requests like this.  However, since the school year becomes so very busy for all of us, and since there can be so many requests all at once, I realized that it would be better to write The Esti-Mystery Creator Course so that anyone who is interested in learning how to create Esti-Mysteries precisely for what their students are working on at any given time will be able to do so.


Q9.  Some of the Esti-Mysteries have charts on them.  Why is that?

A9.  I typically include charts on the first few Esti-Mysteries of new sets to help students see how they might use a chart when they solve the Esti-Mysteries.


Q10.  What is your biggest tip for using Esti-Mysteries?

A10.  Make sure your students write down their estimate at the beginning AND after each clue.  Most importantly, be sure that each time a new clue appears that students have a chance to discuss the clue, write down their new estimate, and explain to each other WHY they chose that estimate.


I truly hope you enjoy the 51 new Esti-Mysteries!


Thanks for visiting my blog!


All my best,





  1. Kim Nero on October 6, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    Steve–Can’t thank you enough for this incredible food for math thought–my students beg for esti-mysteries. To save paper, we use this digital one hundred chart on our chrome books: It seems to elevate the fun even more!

  2. Luis on October 5, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    Was it 47? Where can I see the answer?

  3. Steph on October 4, 2019 at 11:04 am

    I’m confused as to where I can fidn the answer to the pattern blocks one which is the first one I did with my kids to try out… 🙁 Please help!

    • Steve Wyborney on October 6, 2019 at 7:04 pm

      Hi Steph. To make the answer appear, make sure the slide show is playing (slide show, view in PPT or Present in Google slides)

  4. Laura Buchanan on October 3, 2019 at 5:11 pm

    Steve, thank you so much for making the Flying cars fun for my first graders!! We have 4 students who think there are 18, 8 who think there are 36, and 9 who think there are 48.

  5. Jenn McIntyre on October 3, 2019 at 4:39 pm

    Thank you for this awesome resource. My students beg to do them. I hope this is the right place to post this answer for Flying Cars. My students decided it was 36 cars. They had chosen a smaller range than 61 before revealing the first clue, they argued their thinking so we stuck with it. I’m having a little trouble getting this posted….saying I have duplicate posts?

  6. Jenn McIntyre on October 3, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    Thank you for this awesome resource. My students beg to do them. I hope this is the right place to post this answer for Flying Cars. My students decided it was 36 cars. They had chosen a smaller range than 61 before revealing the first clue, they argued their thinking so we stuck with it.

  7. Mary-Lynn Hrom on October 3, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Hi Steve – my class loves the Esti-mysteries! They beg me to put one on everyday! So thanks so much for contributing to my class on a daily basis!
    For the Flying Cars, our Gr 4/5 class has chosen two answers – 36 or 48. They are excited to see who is right!

  8. Janet Dill on October 3, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Consensus from the fourth grade at Wolfsville Elem. in Maryland seems to be 36 for the flying cars mystery. A few are still holding on to 48, but we don’t think that’s as reasonable.

  9. Kristy Larson on September 30, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    I am new to esti-mysteries but really want to use them in my classroom. What is the best way to download them? I tried the download PDF option and it didn’t work. Thank you

    • Steve Wyborney on October 1, 2019 at 6:41 am

      Hi, Kristy. Just click directly on the blue link and it will download. You may need to check your download folder to find it. Have a great day!

  10. Paula Rager on September 30, 2019 at 4:57 am

    Thank you so much! These are wonderful. May i ask you if you can get more than one answer per question? Thank you

    • Steve Wyborney on October 1, 2019 at 6:44 am

      Hi, Paula. There is always just one answer for each Esti-Mystery question. However, the clues do not narrow it down to only one answer. The clues normally narrow down the options to 2 or 3 possibilities, and then the students can decide which of those remaining possibilities is the most reasonable. Then the reveal will show the actual number of objects. The reason for this is that if it I eliminated all of the numbers except for 1, then there would be no need to estimate at the end, and there wouldn’t be any mystery left. The conversation about which of the remaining numbers is the most reasonable at the end is one of the most important discussions. Great question!

  11. Alison Walker on September 25, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    My students love these activities! Thank you so much for providing them to us!!!!

    • Steve Wyborney on September 25, 2019 at 8:10 pm

      Thanks, Alison! I really appreciate it. I’ll be posting quite a few more over the next several weeks.

  12. Jessica Schwab on September 25, 2019 at 5:51 am

    I can only download the first two mysteries for each level. Is there a way to download the rest?

    • Steve Wyborney on September 25, 2019 at 8:10 pm

      Hi, Jessica. I’m posting some each week. I’ve planned to post one from each level each week, but I’m moving a little more quickly than that. I just need a big, open block of time. 🙂

      • Jessica on September 26, 2019 at 6:17 am

        Awesome! Thank you so much!

        • Steve Wyborney on September 26, 2019 at 6:30 am

          I’m so happy the share, and I appreciate the comment!

  13. Danene Severson on September 23, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    My 5th graders love these and our entire school is all about number talks. Thank you so much for creating these and providing them to math learners everywhere!!

  14. Nicole on September 23, 2019 at 1:04 pm

    These are great! Thank you so much!! I look forward to using them with my gifted elementary students.

  15. Kerrie Sullivan on September 23, 2019 at 5:22 am

    I am so excited to try these I love the concept and think they will work amazingly with my resource room students. I have tried other types but they were not as successful.

  16. June on September 22, 2019 at 7:47 pm

    Wow, Steve, we are already converts in Rm 20 – a bunch of crazy 10 year olds in Auckland New Zealand who rise to every challenge – so sharing this resource is not only exceptionally generous of you, but consolidates our love of all things mathematical. Many many thanks!

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