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RiddleMath Book
Using Student-Written Riddles To Build Mathematical Power
Carl Sherrill

RiddleMath at a Glance

Unlike some cutesy puzzle-based programs, RiddleMath goes beyond routine computation and requires serious thinking from students, as they model their solutions with a variety of hands-on materials.

The riddles cover a range of difficulty appropriate for children at 2nd through 5th-grade levels. Supporting the 100 blackline masters is a classroom-tested, teacher-friendly guide.

To help each student develop:

• A powerful repertoire of problem-solving strategies
• The ability to represent mathematical ideas using concrete materials
• Facility with basic math facts and operations
• Reading comprehension and writing skills
• Cooperative learning strategies
• Confidence in self as a problem poser and solver

Mathematical Content
The lessons address all strands, with an emphasis on algebra, number, logic and language.
Includes place value, money, multiplication and division concepts, basic facts for addition and multiplication, geometric shapes, area, perimeter, algebra, and word problems.

Ability Levels
For ages 7 to 11. Problem sets of varying difficulty are provided.
Ideal for multi-level and multi-lingual groups.

Time Requirements
From two to four sessions of 45-60 minutes per type of riddle.
Designed to be integrated into other math units during the course of the year

Reading, writing, and oral language

158-page teacher's guide, including 100 blackline masters for transparencies and worksheets

Classroom-tested by the author over a six-year period
Reviewed and piloted by teachers at six other school sites

Contents / Sample Riddles

Bean Riddles
Students use comparisons and proportions to identify quantities of four kinds of beans.
Algebraic thinking, comparison, addition, subtraction, missing addends

Desiree’s Riddle
I have 15 beans altogether.
I have 1 fewer white than black.
I have the same number
of pintos and reds.
I have 4 white beans.

Coin Riddles
Students identify groups of coins based on the total value and comparative clues.
Counting money, language of comparison, algebraic thinking

Curtis's Riddle
I have 10 coins.
My coins are worth 61¢.
I have twice as many nickels as dimes.
I have no quarters.

Base Ten Riddles
Students discover groupings of base ten blocks that represent given areas.
Place value, regrouping, area

Bianca's Riddle
My blocks cover 241 square centimeters.
I have more tens than hundreds.
I have 7 blocks in all.


Rectangle Riddles
Students arrange color tiles into rectangles of given areas and perimeters.
Multiplication, factors, area, perimeter

Gavin's Riddle
My room is shaped like a rectangle.
It has an area of 28 square inches.
It has a perimeter of 22 inches.

Postage Stamp Riddles
Students identify combinations of stamps that make up various totals.
Multiplication, addition, money,
algebraic thinking

Rebecca's Riddle
I have 10 stamps.
They are 3¢ and 5¢ stamps.
They are worth 40¢.

Things in Groups
Students group objects to identify an unknown number according to its divisibility.
Division, multiples, factors

Alex's Riddle
On a distant planet there are between
29 and 39 aliens.
There is an even number.
They could divide themselves into 4 equal spaceship crews with none left over.
They could divide themselves into
8 crews with none left over.


Pattern Block Riddles
Students form geometric figures using the "values" of pattern blocks and other clues.
Geometry, combining and subdividing shapes, area, perimeter, multiplication

Rachel’s Riddle
My shape is a trapezoid.
It is worth $12.
I used 6 blocks.
I didn’t use any yellows.
The perimeter is 10 inches.
Hint: Make a red butterfly in the middle.


Color Tile Algebra
Students use color tiles and number tiles to identify unknowns in equations.
Algebraic thinking, addition, subtraction, missing addends

Logan's Puzzle
Green + Blue = 10
Red – Yellow = 7
Yellow + Red = 11
Blue = 4

Telltale Numbers

Students make sense of mathematical "tales" by placing missing numbers in math stories.
Interpreting word problems, number sense, addition, subtraction, other operations

Telltale Birthdays by Jennifer
It is March right row.
My birthday is ___ months away.
I am going to turn ___ on October ___.
My sister is three years older than me.
She is going to turn ___ in about ___ months. That will be on January ___.
Fill in these numbers so that the story makes sense:
4   12    9   10   7   14

WordsWorth Puzzles
Students make use of letter "values" to identify unknown words and sentences.
Addition, subtraction, missing addends

Ian's Puzzle
(a = 1¢, b = 2¢, and so on.
Rearrange the words to form a sentence.)

__at = 27¢     __ = 1¢  
__ave = 36¢   __ =  9¢
__ox = 45¢    __his = 56¢
i__ =  23¢      __ox = 41¢

Number Tile Puzzles
Students complete addition and multiplication equations using sets of number tiles.
Addition, missing addends, multiplication, factors, guess-and-check problem solving

(See cover image for example.)



". . . The perfect activity for integrating mathematics with language arts skills!  Reading, vocabulary, basic math, mathematical reasoning, and writing skills are finely tuned as students work together to create original riddles. Even the most reluctant students are motivated to produce a quality riddle. . ." 
— Joyce Nelson, Ed. D., Math Specialist, Suwanee, Georgia

"This book captures the interest of all students because they like being math detectives. The riddles require the children to process the information at a critical thinking level. Mr. Sherrill provides guidelines so that the children may go on to make their own riddles to share with each other. How pleased they are when they can stump their classmates. I am delighted with the integration of skills. . . A wonderful resource for teachers and parents." 
— Pam Lobenhofer, Math Resource Teacher, Arlington Heights, Illinois

"RiddleMath provides excellent mathematics content, sound instructional methodology, and highly engaging activities. Because it effectively models the NCTM Standards, it is the perfect instructional material for preparing preservice teachers. . . I am confident that my students will use RiddleMath in their own classrooms. Moreover, I suspect that many of their colleagues will want their own copies of the book so that their students may be just as engaged and excited about math." 
— Diane Profita Schiller, Ph.D, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction, Loyola University of Chicago

“I was pleased with the range of what was possible. The top kids turned it into algebra. The others worked it out with the materials. I totally loved it!” — Jules Strasser, Teacher

“I'm always excited to teach the lessons and to elicit the 'wow' of math.”  — Karen Murphy, Teacher

“I found the teacher directions to be very good, on a par with the Marilyn Burns' materials that I've used. My students liked the challenge and learned new strategies.”  — Linda Gorman, Teacher


Many thanks to Carl Sherrill for permission to display these lyric excerpts.
© Carl Sherrill. All rights reserved. Used with permission.





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