51 Brand New Esti-Mysteries!  4 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!

My goal was to write and post 51 brand new Esti-Mysteries between September and December.

The 51st Esti-Mystery was posted on Nov. 29, 2019.

After reading this blog post, take a look at  THE 12 MOST POPULAR MATH STRATEGIES AND DOWNLOADS ON THIS BLOG.

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

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

Esti-Mystery 102 – “Shiny Rings”

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

Esti-Mystery 105  –  “Something Fishy”

Esti-Mystery 107  –  “Bingo Lid”

Esti-Mystery 108  –  “Two of Hearts”

Esti-Mystery 111  –  “Block Talk, Level 1”

Esti-Mystery 113  –  “Gobs of Globes”

Esti-Mystery 114  –  “Rocky Glass, Level 1”

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”

Esti-Mystery 206  –  “The Return of the Rings”

Esti-Mystery 207  –  “Block Talk, Level 2”    (just updated)

Esti-Mystery 208  –  “Kazoom”

Esti-Mystery 209  –  “Unleaded, Level 2”

Esti-Mystery 210  –  “Buttons Blue and Yellow, Too”

Esti-Mystery 211  –  “Airplanes”

Esti-Mystery 212  –  “Beads in a Bowl”

Esti-Mystery 213  –  “Gobs of Globes, Level 2”

Esti-Mystery 301 – “Not Carrot Sticks”

Esti-Mystery 302 – “Countdown”

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”

Esti-Mystery 310  –  “The Return of the Erasers!”

Esti-Mystery 311  –  “Block Talk, Level 3”

Esti-Mystery 312 – “Yellow Hexagonal Prisms”

Esti-Mystery 313  –  “Kazoom, Part 2”

Esti-Mystery 314  –  “Rocky Glass, Level 3”

Esti-Mystery 315  –  “Unleaded, Level 3”

Esti-Mystery 316  –  “Gobs of Globs, Level 3”

Esti-Mystery 401 – “Facing Prisms”

Esti-Mystery 402 – “Packing Peanuts”

Esti-Mystery 404  –  “Block Talk, Level 4”

Esti-Mystery 405  –  “Prism Challenge”

Esti-Mystery 406  –  “Where’s the Graphite?”

Esti-Mystery 407  –  “Rocky Vase, Level 4”

Esti-Mystery 408  –  “3 Gobs of Globes”

Q & A

I love the questions, so please keep them coming!

Q1.  How do I get the Esti-Mysteries?

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,

Steve

1. Susan Jardim on March 4, 2020 at 1:03 pm

My 6th grade math classes are loving the estimysteries. In fact, I’ve had to begin rewriting the clues to some of the small number mysteries because we’ve run out of puzzles to do. Here are my new clues for “Something Fishy”.
1) The answer is between 10 and 31. Write a list of possible answers.
2) The answer is not a square number.
3) The answer is not a multiple of 3.
4) The answer is not a prime number.
5) The answer does not contain the digits 4 or 8.

• Steve Wyborney on March 6, 2020 at 6:17 am

I like what you’ve done! This makes me wonder if I should write more of them. Have you tried the 15 Esti-Mysteries inside 20 Days of Numbers Sense and Rich Math Talk?

2. Anne H on November 17, 2019 at 5:59 pm

Hi, Steve,

All of your work is well-loved by my students (gr. 1-8)–and me! Just can’t get enough!

I did find an error in the Facing Prisms Esti-mystery. There are 6 faces and 6 vertices on the prisms, so those two clues cancel each other out. The 100 chart after the 6 faces clue doesn’t have the 12, 36, 72, and 96 crossed out.

You know the kids are thinking critically when they spot this! Thanks so much for all your work!! AH

• Steve Wyborney on November 18, 2019 at 6:27 am

Hi, Anne. What a great question! This is one of the esti-mysteries when not all of the faces (or vertices) of the prisms can be seen. So, on the prisms even though you can’t see 6 vertices, the students can work out that a triangular prism have 6 vertices. Then with the final clue, they see that the answer is a multiple of 6, which brings the possible numbers down to the set that you mentioned in your comment. This might be a fun one for your students to revisit in that new light. Enjoy, and thanks for reaching out with this great question!

3. Tricia Stohr-Hunt on October 29, 2019 at 7:07 pm

Steve,
We’re loving the Esti-Mysteries we’ve been solving each week. We did find a typo in the Red and Yellow mystery. In most of your sets you use the words “cross out”, but in this one, clues 2, 3, and 4 say “cross of.” I think you meant cross off. You can thank my second graders for catching this. I didn’t even notice.

Thanks so much for sharing all of these. It’s clear that my kiddos are already improving in their estimation skills as we walk through these mysteries together.

• Steve Wyborney on October 29, 2019 at 7:35 pm

What a great catch! Thank you so much. I just updated it so that it reads “cross off” on both of those clues. Please let your students know how impressed I am. Not only are they great mathematicians, but they are also wonderful editors. Well done!

• Lisa Mills on November 13, 2019 at 6:34 am

Steve; I am doing esti-mysteries with a 5th grade class each Wednesday. Today we worked on “Three Containers of Dominoes” We got it down to 75 or 105. We could not get 95 to work, even though that is the answer! Can you give us some clues to think about that will help?

• Steve Wyborney on November 18, 2019 at 6:21 am

Hi, Lisa. This may help: Which clue in 3 containers of dominoes eliminated the 95?

You may also want to make a list of numbers (60 and greater) and cross off the numbers that are eliminated by the clues as you go.

Let me know if that helps.

4. Kim R on October 29, 2019 at 6:47 am

We are curious about the dice we see outside of the container. Is their a purpose?

• Steve Wyborney on October 29, 2019 at 4:29 pm

Great question. Every now and then I incorporate the die into a clue. I’ve learned not to do that every time or else students begin to look there first, instead of estimating first. It also gives me options as a clue writer, and it serves as a size reference to add context for students.

5. Laura Connell on October 23, 2019 at 9:59 am

Steve, some second graders and I were confused by the clues in brown beads. We narrowed the choices down to 11-19 after the more than 10 and less than 20 clues, but then the next clue said the number does NOT contain the digits 1, 2, and 3. That eliminates everything! Led to a nice discussion about place value (and that the ones place did not contain a 1, 2, or 3) though.

• Steve Wyborney on October 24, 2019 at 6:44 am

Great question! I made a mistake and rewrote that clue. I had intended the 1 to only eliminate digits in the ones place. If you download the new version, you’ll see how I changed that clue so that it no longer eliminates numbers with the digit 1. Thanks for sending that my way!

6. Elma Witty on October 22, 2019 at 3:09 pm

What number over 10 and under 20 does not include the digit 1? Did you mean “does not end in …”

• Steve Wyborney on October 24, 2019 at 6:47 am

Yes, I originally meant does not have a 1, 2, or 3 in the ones place. I just posted a new version so that clue now only reads that the answer does not include the digit 2 or 3. You can download the updated version now.

7. stephanie smith on October 20, 2019 at 1:47 pm

Sometimes the entire clue doesn’t show up… Am I doing something wrong? I’m using powerpoint.

Thanks so much!

• Steve Wyborney on October 29, 2019 at 4:31 pm

I’m not entirely sure, but I wonder if it might be show in “widescreen” format. I wonder if adjusting the size of the display might help.

8. Julie Johnson on October 16, 2019 at 8:32 pm

I’m a STEM teacher and I’ve shared these as a class warm up so far with my second and third graders. They LOVED them! It was so fun to have them explain their reasoning for their estimate. The only thing we wished was after the answer is revealed we could see the items laid out., similar to a Three Act Task. We have done counting collections before and are surprised sometimes just what a number actually looks like. Some of my third graders still can’t believe the answer to “Flying Cars”. We hope to do many more this year!

• Steve Wyborney on October 29, 2019 at 4:35 pm

Hi, Julie. I find that many people often estimate about 1/3 lower than the actual total. That’s been really interesting to observe in both others and myself. I had considered additional pictures, or even videos, to show the objects all being laid out, but I could tell it was going to turn into a very slow process, so I didn’t go that way. I do very much love how the 3-act tasks include that as a feature!

9. Lisa Trask on October 16, 2019 at 8:24 pm

I can’t wait to try this. Thank you!

10. 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: https://toytheater.com/hundreds-chart/ It seems to elevate the fun even more!

• Erica on October 9, 2019 at 3:46 am

Thank you for sharing the digital chart! We don’t have a printer at home, and now I don’t have to bother my husband to print the chart for me. 🙂

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

Was it 47? Where can I see the answer?

12. 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)

13. 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.

14. 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?

15. 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.

16. 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!

17. 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.

18. 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

19. 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!

20. 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.

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

• 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!

22. 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!!

23. 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.

24. 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.

25. 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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