Mystery Prize Game

This simple game is fun on many levels. I play it a few times a year and it’s a hit every time. And, after reading this, if someone can give me a catchy name for it, thank you in advance.

I give every student a set of 8-10 problems. Usually review and stuff that can completed somewhat quickly. Most recently, it was using the discriminant to determine the nature of the roots of a quadratic equation. The kids are in groups of 2-4 and, since class is 43 minutes, I give them 20-25 minutes to complete the problems. I foreshadow and mention that their group may earn an awesome prize based on correct answers.

Here’s where the fun comes in, especially the first time we play it. After working out the problems, I reveal three prizes. They are written on index cards and sealed with staples inside a folded piece of paper; a poor man’s envelope.

Prize Game Sealed Envelopes

For each round of the game, I use a random name picker to select a student. The selected student’s group gets an opportunity to answer a question from the handout. I usually go in sequential order. Correct answer = choice of prize. When choosing their prize, they have the right to any prize, even if that means stealing one from another group. We repeat this process for the remaining problems. To keep it fun for everyone, I limit the number of prizes per group to one, but groups can swap prizes with another group if they already have a prize. If a group gets a question wrong, we spin again to find another group. 

The game gets heated. I, of course, totally encourage stealing prizes from other groups. It’s fun and I love the instant rivalry that’s created when a prize is heartlessly taken. From a teacher’s point of view, this also provides high levels of motivation to earn correct answers!

With a few minutes left, we stop and the three sealed envelopes are opened by the groups that possess them. After a hard-fought game earning prizes, the anticipation behind opening them up is palpable. You would think it was Christmas morning. 

Here they are from the most recent game:

IMG_0198            IMG_0200

The kids always go crazy. 

I suppose you could play this with “real” prizes like candy or bonus points, but the kids always get an extra special kick out of these types of prizes – especially after competing for it throughout the game. They are just as motivated the next time we play. It’s all about good-natured competition and the mystery behind the prizes that make it fun. 

The prizes are different every game, but I usually stick with the Smile & Handshake each time we play. It’s become my trademark. 

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