Mysteries to support critical thinking

mystery detective Solving mysteries can support critical thinking while having fun

Mystery Luncheons were a regular activity in our school when I was a principal.  I invited different grades each day to join me to eat lunch and  I shared with them a few mysteries to solve.  It was a great time as we all chatted and tried to solve the mysteries.

The object of 1-2 minute mysteries is to solve the mysteries based on clues in the story. The clues are few and very often are not obvious.  The mysteries seem impossible to solve until you remember there is something (or more than one thing) that you are making assumptions about.

Steps to Solve:

  1. Read the story slowly.
  2. If you are solving the mysteries with a friend, you can ask questions that can only be answered yes or no. Be sure to phrase the questions vaguely at first? Such as does the solution have anything to do with a specific character, the setting, the time of year, time of day, the weather etc.
  3. Once you realize the answer is not clear, look at the story and think about what the tricks in the story could be:
    • Most times the trick could be in our assumptions of the 5 W’s. (Who, What, When, Where and Why)
    • What tricks could be in the story?
    • Is there something about the sequence of what happened? (what happened first, second or last)
    • Is there something about the characters? (Their name, the type they are)
    • Something about the setting? (weather, time)

Mystery Stories

  1. In the old West a man rides into town on Friday. He stays for three days and leaves on Friday. How can this be?
  2. A father and son are in an auto accident. The father dies and the son is rushed to the hospital in critical condition. The doctor looks at the boy and says, “I can’t work on him, he’s my son.” How can this be?
  3. Donna and Jerry and Howard and Mary all live in the same house. Donna and Jerry go out to a movie, and when they return, Howard is lying dead on the floor in a puddle of water and glass. It is obvious that Mary killed him but she is not arrested.  How could that be?
  4. There is a pipe, a carrot and a pile of pebbles together in the middle of a field. Why?
  5. Declan wants to go home, but he can’t go home, because the man in the mask is waiting for him.

Clues:

  1. Friday is not a day of the week
  2. Some careers have both men and women employed
  3. Howard is not a man
  4. Can you think of something that uses all 3 items?
  5. The man in the mask is not a threat. He is supposed to be wearing a mask.

Answers:  (You asked for it, here they are) 

  1. Friday is the name of the horse the man was riding on.
  2. The surgeon is the boys mother.
  3. Howard is a fish.  He lived in a fishbowl and it had fallen on the floor.
  4. The items were the remains of a melted snowman.
  5. The man with a mask is a catcher at home plate.

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Mysteries to support critical thinking

Minute-Mysteries: October   

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