The Database Detectives



Résumé, summary

Pupils were provided with a story about one of a number of invented crimes. The information gave "evidence" in the form of "forensic" evidence (shoe prints of a given size, hair of a particular colour, and so on), visual clues (tattoo seen on arm, of average weight and so on) and anecdotal evidence (woman suspected, and so on). A database was provided which listed a number of suspects together with a number of their characteristics like gender, age, eye colour, weight and so on. Pupils had to analyse the evidence, search the database and find the name of the criminal. Once they had correctly solved a number of crimes they could then invent their own crimes. The conditions here were that all the evidence given had to be useful and that one criminal would be uniquely identified.

Discipline, subject :

mathématiques Mathematik mathematics matematica informatique Informatik computing/computer science informatica social studies computing computer science études sociales

Public :

cycle d'orientation Sek I, BWK lower high school ciclo d'orientamento

Contacts :

Miller, David

Department of Education Keele University, Keele


Tel : +44 782.583.124
Mail :
Fax : +44 782.714.113

Pédagogie, pedagogy :

Pupils were given one of a number of invented crime stories. Included in the story were a number of clues which would lead to the criminal. Pupils were provided with a database of known "criminals" together with a list of their physical and criminal characteristics. Pupils had to examine the evidence provided, use the searching features of the database to analyse the data and solve the crime. Mathematics involved work on the various types of averages as well as problem solving. Pupils then had to build up their own sets of clues for other crimes which other pupils had to solve. A later development involved the searching of two databases.

Apprentissage, learning :

Pupils had to examine the data carefully and collect the information (such as the average weight for a female) from the correct subset of the data. In addition they had to make correct use of AND and OR in their searching routines. When inventing their own crimes, pupils had to ensure that once the evidence was analysed exactly one "criminal" was identified.

Enseignement, teaching :

The aim was to show how a database could be searched according to various criteria, dependent on its design. Pupils were required to analyse the data and interpret it before the database could be searched. It was also intended that pupils should become more familiar with database searching operations and their "statistical" functions, particularly averages.

Technique :

Particular database used was called GRASS, though it is also possible to use the database features of a spreadsheet like EXCEL. The datafiles used are called DIAMOND, VARLET and TICKETS.

Société, society :

Pupils were required to work together solving the crimes and inventing their own problems.

Culture :

Institution :

Although a computer room was used for this activity, it could be carried out by individual pupils in any classroom with a computer.

Logistique :

Remarques, remarks :

This activity, designed by the author, has been used by the author in many classrooms, as well as on training courses. It has subsequently been used and adapted by many other teachers, and then by their pupils. It is something which goes down well with pupils of different ages and abilities.