Turning AHH to AHA! Using Puzzles in the Classroom

The other day as I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook I noticed a post by Mindshift on the positive link between guessing games and math ability. Read the post on their site here. Although the research was on guessing games, it made me reflect on my use of logic puzzles in the classroom.



At the beginning of most math classes, I start the class off with some sort of logic puzzle. When I first introduced the different types, my students would complain that they were "too hard". However, after they had enough practice with them and I walked them through the puzzles a few different times they start to love them. My students will constantly ask for them and have learned to embrace the challenges posed by them.

Now I don't actually know if this is helping their math skills, but there are a few things I do know. First, my students are learning to embrace challenges. Although they were terrified at first, they enjoy them and ask me to give them harder puzzles. They like to learn how to do new puzzles and are quickly asking for harder ones. By starting off with puzzles, students learn to embrace the harder problem solving that we do as the year goes on.

Secondly, students have to put in to play the strategies that I teach them with growth mindset. Last month, I posted on growth mindset. I know many of our districts are talking about it along with the world of education in general. From the lessons that we do, students learn about techniques such as positive self talk, visualization, and square breathing. They are able to use these strategies to work through the problems when things get tough.

These puzzles turn my students into critical thinkers that are excited for new challenges. Some of my favorites to use in the classroom are:

1. Sudoku
2. KenKen

  • Printable: http://krazydad.com/inkies/ 
  • Online: http://www.kenkenpuzzle.com/play_now
3. Numbrix

  • http://www.mathinenglish.com/numbrix.php


I also really like to use the Rubiks Cube in class. If you haven't checked out You Can Do the Cube you definitely need to! They have a free lending library and free classroom resources. What are your favorite challenges to use in the classroom?

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