Puzzles in Education
By Tom Cutrofello
Many educators – at all levels – incorporate puzzles into the classroom. Teachers typically use puzzles as an ancillary tool. It is my contention that puzzles should play a more integral role in school.
Let's face it, a lot of what takes place in schools is memorization: spelling, the multiplication table, geography, and biology come to mind. Memorization is a necessary and important skill to develop! However, it rarely leads to excitement and creativity. After all, the ultimate goal of educators is to develop independent, creative problem-solving thinkers.
Magic is similar to puzzles. Ever notice the audience guessing how a trick is performed: "Magnets", "Gravity", "He palmed the coin." The guesses are usually based on logic. What's even more evident is that everybody is participating in enthusiastic problem solving.
So where do puzzles fit in? There is no one answer. However, there is a wide variety of puzzles for all age groups.
Mazes are great for the youngest solvers.
Pencil puzzles – there is a wide variety to choose from! Crosswords, anagrams and cryptograms build language skills. Sudoku, kakuro are just a couple of puzzles that develop logical special development skills.
Entanglement puzzles have a simple objective: remove the ring from the string. They offer students a tangible grasp and are just plain fun.
Tangram puzzles: take 7 pieces that form a square. Now rearrange them to make hundreds of other shapes – a butterfly, a dancing man etc.
Sequential Movement puzzles are perhaps the most difficult to solve. The 15 puzzle and Rubik's Cube are the most famous. Nobody solves them by luck. Nor is there any "aha!" moment.
Some teachers believe that on-line puzzles are frivolous – that is, mere game playing and not educational. A lot of the on-line games and puzzles are mindless. The links here lead to puzzles that have great depth and ingenuity that should be celebrated like Oscar winning films.
Retailers with great puzzles:
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