Why we use puzzles?
Puzzles act as a fun educational tool that can boost self-confidence and self-esteem. By including puzzles into teaching and learning at home, it offers a great opportunity for families to work together as they pool their knowledge, skills, and efforts to reach a solution. Once that solution has been reached the sense of achievement and satisfaction is gratifying and uplifting.
Puzzles can strengthen skills such as lateral thinking, innovation, deductive reasoning, open mindedness, and attention to detail; all these skills are easily transferred into the maths class and beyond as students become more adaptable and creative problem solvers.
Strategies that are often applied to solve problems are:
- Trial and error
- Change your point of view
- Work backwards
- Find intermediate points, work step by step
- Eliminate what is impossible
- Work with simplifications
- Look for patterns, symmetry
- Make a list or prepare a table of data
- Draw a picture
- Make a physical model
This list is by no means exhaustive but can be a starting point. Several of these may be applied to the same problem individually or sequentially.
Our philosophy is to guide the students to “discovering” these strategies themselves rather than handing them a toolkit. A reflective discussion should be facilitated so that students can explore and discover the many strategies used by the different groups of students.
In this way they
- Better appreciate and remember the strategies
- Build confidence
- Develop the habit of reflecting
It is important to emphasise the ultimate aim is not to solve the puzzles, but to develop a toolkit of strategies that will be useful with other problems.
Pupils that are fast at solving problems and are in the habit of tossing them aside once they have solved them may miss the opportunity to develop their skills.
It is perseverance and reflection that are important in becoming a great problem solver.