Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Systems of Equations, Riddles, and Students' Attention

Before I even mentioned what a system of equation was to my students I posed the following riddles to them:

Nineteen coins are what’s in this cup.
Better believe me ‘cause that’s what’s up.

There’s no peeking or you’ll never learn.
Wait ‘til the end when it’s your turn.

A dollar thirty is the total inside.
That’s the truth, I’ve never lied.

So how many nickels and how many dimes?
Figure it out.  I’ve got no more rhymes.

Or how about this one?

Quarters and nickels, a total of sixteen.
How many of each, without being seen?

The value of two-twenty is right in this cup.
You will find the answer, a certain cheer up.

Make a table, a graph, an equation will do.
Give it a try and learn something new.

It’s a challenge I know, but don’t give up hope.
The answer is obtainable and within your scope.

I like this one...

In this cup are seventeen quarters and half-dollars.
Finding the solution will produce some hollas!

The question is how many of each coin inside,
That the creative instructor has so graciously supplied.

Five dollars fifty cents doesn’t buy much these days,
But in this cup is where that total lays.

Don’t look inside, that is called cheating
It’s with your intelligence that you are competing

And the last one...

It’s a mystery what’s inside this container.
But you won’t look, you’re not a complainer.

Seventeen coins, that is a hint from me to you.
Quarters and dimes, some old and some new.

The total inside is 3.35.
Get busy on this problem, come on look alive.

You are smarter than you think, you’ve got the knowledge
To solve problems like this and then go to college

I never claimed that I was a poet...

What I found when doing this lesson what that they were truly interested in the answer.  All the students were engaged, and what was most amazing to me what how the 'lowest' students were able to participate equally with the 'highest' students.  The look of pride on them was totally worth it.  

I set up 4 different stations around the room for students to work on.  One cup and one riddle.  Once the students believed they had an answer, they were allowed to open the cup to have a look-see. 

Here is all the information so you can give this a try too!!


  1. I love this idea! We're just getting ready to start systems of equations in Algebra 1 tomorrow. I can't wait to try this out with my students later on in the unit. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love the mystery money idea too. I did this with a system of three equations but I used candy, however, our school is getting really strict on any food, so maybe I will switch to money next year. I will need to start saving up :)

  3. Singing nice way for teaching kids. They can even learn Equations by applying this rhymes. Thanks for sharing

  4. The mystery idea is perfect, I saw some good math riddles, maybe can try one of these out for students: Toss A Coin

  5. Hello! I loved your idea and your riddles, but I'm pretty sure that two of the solutions are incorrect. For the second cup, I believe the numbers should be switched - 9 nickels and 7 quarters. For the third cup, I got 12 quarters and 5 half dollars - the original solution didn't add up to 17! Thanks again for the good idea, but you might want to update the PDF.