One Riddle, One Answer - Part 1

Junior (Age 9 – 12)

Curriculum Goal

Junior: Number Sense

  • Use knowledge of numbers and operations to solve mathematical problems encountered in everyday life.


  • Students should have an understanding of place value and experience with following multi-step math problems.
  • This lesson is the first half of a two-part lesson where students will work individually, in pairs, and in small groups. One Riddle, One Answer: Part 2


  • Book: “One Riddle, One Answer” by Lauren Thompson
  • Read Aloud Available –One Riddle, One Answer: Approaching Math Through Story
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Paper
  • Pencils


Part One:

  • Begin the lesson by asking the class to explain what a riddle is. Once the class has determined the definition of a riddle (ex. a mystery with clues), announce that you have a book about a riddle. Inform them that you will be reading the book “One Riddle, One Answer” and that you will stop reading when the riddle appears so the class can try to solve it.
  • Read “One Riddle, One Answer.” When you get to the part when Aziza shares her riddle, pause the story and write the riddle on a piece of chart paper for the class to see.
    • “Placed above, it makes greater things small. Placed beside, it makes small things greater. In matters that count, it always comes first. Where others increase, it keeps all things the same. What is it?”
  • Give students 10 minutes to think about what the answer might be. Take turns sharing their answers with the class. Students can work individually, in pairs, or small groups to do this task.
  • When students are finished sharing their answers, continue reading the story. As each character shares a guess to Aziza’s riddle, pause the story and ask the class to decide if and why the guess is true for each of the four clues in the riddle. Remind the class that the answer to a riddle must fit all of the clues, not just one of them.
    • g., The scholars guess of the sun is true for the first clue in the riddle, but not the rest of the clues.
  • When Ahmed the farmer guesses that the answer to the riddle is the number one, give students a few minutes to meet in small groups of three to four students to determine why this answer is correct. Ask students to provide a mathematical example for how the answer one works for every clue.
    • g., Placed above, it makes greater things small (e.g., ). Placed beside, it makes small things greater (e.g., 31). In matters that count, it always comes first (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4…). Where others increase, it keeps all things the same (e.g., ).

Follow-up Activity:

  • Once you finish reading the story, announce to the class, “There was another riddle Aziza and Ahmed discovered and they need your help to solve it. Do you think you are able to solve the magic number riddle?”
  • Present the class with the following riddle on chart paper: “I am a three-digit number. My tens place is four times greater than my ones place. My hundreds place is three less than my tens place. The digit in my ones place is odd. What number am I?”
    • The answer is 141.
  • Allow students 5-10 minutes to solve this riddle individually or in pairs. Have students share their answers and mathematical reasoning with the class prior to revealing the correct answer.v


Look Fors

  • What kind of mathematical reasoning are students doing when trying to solve Aziza’s riddle?
  • Do students find additional correct answers for Aziza’s riddle (e.g., zero)?
  • What language and level of mathematical reasoning is being used when students create their own Magic Number?

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