Breakout of the Box: Escape Room Techniques for Class Rooms

I just love it when I find a new idea for my classroom.  Recently I found BreakoutEdu. What a great idea!!

But let me go back a year.  In the spring of last year I first heard of Escape Rooms.  First I saw one on Big Bang Theory.  Then I went with a small group of friends to the Escape Room in Savannah (a ghost story themed, of course).  It was pretty fun.  And then I went with a group of AP Statistics Readers to an Escape Room in Kansas City (a reporter missing from a hotel room).

Here are the results of my first attempt at this adventure with my students.  Of course I tied it in with My Gamification Game Plan.  As I started to plan it out in my head, my first concern was for how I could keep each block of students from giving the secrets away to the other blocks.  I teach the same class 3 times a day and I would need to have 3 groups per block. To motivate students to keep the secrets of the game, I awarded AP Coins to all groups who completed the puzzle, but the group with the fastest time earned the most coins and the group with the slowest time earned the fewest coins.  So they were all competing against all of the other groups.

I prepared three locked containers, one for each group.  Each container had three different styles of combination locks.  Each lock had a different puzzle to solve for the combination.  One of the puzzles was not related to statistics, but two of the puzzles were part of our test review.

Students completed the chapter review assignment in sections.  The first two sections of the review will be untimed.   Student were reminded that they were a team and should make sure that every member of the team was well prepared for tomorrow’s test.  When they finished the second section of the review, they received the third section of the review, the locked box and a bag with the clues/puzzles.  This is when the timer started.

Students were placed into heterogeneous groups of 6-7 based on their current class average.  The desks were arranged so that the “team leader” faced the rest of the team.

After completing the first two parts of the chapter review, students worked against the clock to simultaneously solve the three puzzles.

One of the puzzles was an actual puzzle.  The clue was written on the back of the puzzle.

And finally, they removed all three locks to gain access to the certificate inside the  box.

The reaction from the students was even better than I had hoped.  Of course they were proud and excited about solving the puzzles.  But I think the best part was the active participation in the review problems.  One student even told me that he was glad that the first two sections were untimed so that students could spend the time needed to understand and complete the problems without feeling pressured to take shortcuts.

For more details on this activity:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Breakout for Pizza

I guess I need to get started on the next chapter review and set of puzzles!

If you like this or if you have any suggestions or variations, please comment below. 🙂
Follow me to see more ideas from my classroom.







  1. FYI. Walmart has small red toolboxes that a lock can be attached to for around $5. Home Depot has ones that are a little bigger and black for $8.


  2. If you break the class into groups, do all of the groups win together or could it be 1 out of 5 groups? Do you time it? If they don’t escape, do you do it again after review? If you re-use locks, the code is always the same for each game. How do you address this?


    1. We use breakout in for several purposes at our Technology and Engineering Education teacher preparation program at Pittsburg State. We buy locks that allow us to set the combination to whatever we want. They are a little more expensive than a typical lock but they are also reusable.


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