I was the president of Davidson College’s Bernard Society of Mathematics; and Nick Cain, one of the vice-presidents, had insisted all year on creating a math murder mystery for Davidson. We organized a planning team and scheduled the murder mystery for a week night in early February. I personally hoped that we would create something that would be fun for math enthusiasts—not just majors—and that would not be too much work for the planners. The former came true. I will reserve comment on the latter!
The planning team consisted of Nick, Bridget Cook, Lesley Attkisson, Martha Shott, and me. All five of us were math majors. All of us expect Martha were Bernard Society officers. Martha brought enthusiasm, energy, and humor to the endeavor. I would encourage people to look for these qualities when getting together a team to create a math murder mystery. Otherwise, you will get frustrated, yell at people, throw things, and quit.
Nick and Bridget were the only two within our group who had ever seen a math murder mystery (MMM, for brevity’s sake). In other words, we had no idea what we were doing. We were not trying to imitate other people’s MMMs: we were trying to create our own. Ideas began to fly:
“Why don’t we do two murders?” Good idea.
“Should we do it like Clue so that one group discovers the culprit, another group the weapon, and a final group the location?” Great! More groups means more people can play without feeling left out.
We were creating something new and having fun doing it. Lesley volunteered to do the advertisement, which included flyers and body outlines made from masking tape. The other four of us created puzzles which relied on a good mix of problem solving and mathematics.
Only after the MMM did we find the article in Math Horizons which gave suggestions for creating a murder mystery. [September 2001, pg. 24ff] If you read the article (and you should), you’ll see how different our MMMs were. And that’s good. Hopefully, a diverse selection of MMM ideas will give you more choices and inspiration for creating your own MMM.
We want to share our MMM with you so that you don’t have to start from scratch. Let our work save you time that you might not even have. Feel free to mix and match ideas from other murder mysteries. With a few committed students and/or faculty members, you can create a MMM for your school. Let our resources help you. And be sure to let us know how it goes. We’re sure you’ll do great!