Mystery Prize Review Activity (For Any Topic/Grade!)

Recently, I tried out this review activity with both my 6th and 8th grade math classes. It was one of those activities that you plan last minute to fill time and get some extra review... and it turns out to be really effective and motivating! Both my 6th and 8th grade classes were reviewing for a test and I had loads of extra Halloween candy, so I decided to combine the two.

My first step was to create mystery prizes. I wanted 7 mystery prizes to go along with the 7 review questions that students would be answering. In addition to the extra Halloween candy, I made a quick trip to the dollar store to grab some packs of gum (always good prizes) and some mints. I also had some fun math Pi pencils leftover from Pi Day last spring. All of my mystery prize bags contained some combination of these items!

Next, I needed to create some review problems. This didn't take long... I focused on 7 algebra topics that we were working on at the time in our class. If you are looking for some middle school level questions, you could easily use some of my Scavenger Hunt questions as questions for this review as well. I also recently added a FREE set of 6 problems that can be use as a 6th grade math review.

The morning of our review, I posted the 7 problems around the room. Next to each question, I taped the corresponding mystery prize bag next to the question. I also put a bucket and some scrap paper next to each problem. You wouldn't believe how motivating the mystery prizes were as students came in the door! The rule was, you couldn't touch the bag (but you could look at it or smell it!).

After that, the prep was complete! To start the activity, I told students that they could walk around the room at their own pace and do the problems in any order. They could work alone or with a partner, but they both had to submit work and answers separately if they chose to work in partners. At each problem, they took a piece of scrap paper, completed the problem, and put their answer in the bucket next to that problem (don't forget names!).

After about 15-20 minutes, or once students had a chance to try them all, I had the class go back to their seats. One at a time, we discussed the correct answer to each problem. After we went over the answer, I drew responses from that bucket until there was a correct answer. The first correct answer won that mystery prize!

To spread out the wealth a bit, I did make a rule that once you had won a prize, you couldn't win another one. The only exception was if a student won a prize, and then on a later question was the only student to get the answer correct. Fortunately this didn't happen, since we had multiple correct answers on the problems!

This was a great activity! Sometimes it seems like the last minute ideas turn out to work better than the ones you plan hours for... and this was no exception. The idea of a "mystery prize" was really what hooked the students in and made it extremely motivating to work to get the correct answers to the problems!


  1. What an awesome idea!! We have a test on Friday. I'm so doing this on our review day!!

  2. Great idea! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Did they get everything in the bag if they won? Or did they pick one item out of the bag? Did you have to refill the bags each period?

  4. I am just returning to the classroom after 7 years- this is such a great idea. Thank you- I can't wait to try it with my students