Tenzi Breakout


A few weeks ago, after we finished state testing, I was looking for an active math lesson that my students could complete. I turned to @Mathequalslove and found her Tenzi/Splitzi activity. I made a few modifications where they recorded both their own number of rolls and their tables number of rolls. I then used the graphing portion of her Blind Stork Activity. We played Tenzi and then we had work time to create the graphs on the inside of the foldable. It was a great review activity that got students doing math even on those days were we were all exhausted from testing!

While the 8th graders were completing the Science MCA, I would have the 7th graders for 2 hours and 45 minutes. This is a long class period by almost all standards (I typically have 80 minute periods). I knew that I need to find/create an activity that would take up most of the class period and was engaging and motivating for all of my students.

I was then inspired to create a breakout opportunity for my students. If you don’t know about BreakoutEDU you should check out their website. Last year, I purchased a couple of sets of locks and boxes from Menards and used them to create a couple of experiences for my students but struggled because my students would have the box at their tables and then instead of trying to do the math would attempt to just ‘hack’ the locks and break into the boxes. That defeated the purpose so I had been trying to develop a way for my students to still have the experiences while avoiding allowing them to pick the locks.

I attended a workshop at the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics Conference in Duluth last month. The session was on breakout boxes and the presenter had one box that four different groups were trying to break into. We were given an envelope with clues and small cards that could be exchanged for lock attempts. This was something I could definitely use because then I could supervise the box instead of giving every group a box. It also meant that set up and “resetting” would be a lot easier. You can see an image of these cards (I did not upload them due to branding restrictions… I’m not sure so better safe than sorry.)


While creating my breakout activity, I drew on the Tenzi and Splitzi activity that my students and I had completed earlier in the week. Here’s how it worked without giving away any answers!

The Scenario: Setting the Scene

Students were given an envelope with a set of clues and 8 lock attempt cards (there were only 5 locks they needed to figure out). I also gave all groups three hint cards to use. If groups used all their lock attempt cards, I offered that they could complete a challenge in order to earn a lock attempt back. The challenges were sometimes give me a formula or list all the factors of a specific number or solve an equation. Sometime challenges were that the group had to stand a sing me a song or complete a physical activity (jumping jacks or lunges being my favorites). Here was the scenario the students were given.


Lock 1: Four Digit Lock

This lock was on a smaller box that contained UV lights.

Students were given a page that had been cut into five pieces. You can see the full page below. Students used the data on the page to find the mean, median, mode, and range. On the scenario page, the students hopefully noticed that the word add was bold and all in caps. This was clue to direct them to add the digits for each of the measures of central tendency to get four digits to unlock the box and get their flashlight.


Lock 2: Three Digit Lock Box

Inside this lock box were keys that would unlock the key lock on the main breakout box.

Students were given a page that prompted them to create a stem and leaf plot. If students correctly created their stem and leaf plot (meaning the leaves were in the correct order), they could then use the flashlight to reveal three digits that had been highlighted with a UV pen. These digits would unlock the three digit lock.


Lock 3: Key Lock

Students got the key to this lock by opening the three digit lock box.

Lock 4: Word Lock

The word lock was on the main box.

Inside the envelope was a page that hinted that the students should create a histogram. One of the intervals was filled out, but the students needed to fill in the rest of the them and then complete the histogram. Based on where the bars in the histogram fell, they would get a word to unlock the word lock.


Lock 5: Directional Lock

This lock was also on the main box.

Inside the envelope there was also a page that was meant to make students create a box and whisker plot. Once students created a box and whisker plot, the five numbers from the five number summary would lead to different directions that the students could then use to unlock the directional lock.




Overall this activity was very fun! I underestimated how long it would take the students to breakout and ended up extending the time until the first group got it and then allowed approximately 20 minutes after. Overall the students were engaged for about an hour and a half. I did have one group that pretty much gave up right away and because I was giving out hints and helping with lock attempts, couldn’t sit with them to help get them back on track. They ended up with an alternative assignment from my “Cabinet of Fun.” I noticed that most groups really tried to avoid doing the mean, median, mode activity which really would set the ball rolling in order to complete the rest of the activities. I think this boils down to the number of data points that I gave them. They were trying to be efficient and working with 20+ data points was not something they viewed as efficient. Next time, I would definitely give students multiple copies of the data so that more than one person can look at it at once.

I will keep the lock attempt cards and the hint cards because they were very motivating and helped groups make sure that they were positive with their answers prior to trying the lock. One group didn’t have this figured out and went through 4 lock attempts in the first 12 minutes. Meanwhile, another group tried to wait until they had all of the locks figured out before they even attempted any of them.

I also strongly recommend making enough cards and envelopes for two class periods so that you don’t have to scramble to get everything back into the envelope before the next group comes in. Fortunately, I had my prep and lunch period to regroup before the next class came into the room.

This was my first breakout experience in the school year, but next year, I plan to create and use more of them. My summer school students will probably be the guinea pigs for a couple so that I’m sure I am ready!

You can see the materials from this activity here.

Here are some action shots of my students working!

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