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Specific Questions about Puzzle Program in Secondary Schools

If you've gotten to this page, it probably means that you're willing to give us some specific feedback about a Puzzles in Schools program. Thanks! As with our request on the general page, we'd like you to respond to teachers@ThinkFun.com, but respond with all the detail you can in response to the issues we talk about below.

Our goal is to make puzzles a more integrated part of secondary school programs. We want to do this because we believe in a number of principles about puzzles.

First, they enhance problem-solving skills. Puzzles come in all sorts of forms; to solve them, you can't just apply a formula that has been taught to you; you've got to think through what the challenge is, then start experimenting and exploring, begin to unlock its secrets, and finally, to solve it. When facing a number of different types of puzzles, solvers have to stretch their brains in a number of different directions.

Second, good puzzles expand the imagination. A well designed puzzle should, at some point, appear impossible to the solver. If students get hit with the experience of thinking "I couldn't possibly solve this!" and then can work their way through to the solution, they start building their self esteem and start thinking of themselves as being empowered. Teachers can use this experience as a metaphor for approaching more traditional curriculum challenges.

And third, puzzles are fun! Many kids will want to play with the puzzles for their own sake, which could mean that they will play with them on their own time - over lunch, at recess, at home, wherever - and thus a puzzle program can fit in with a traditional curriculum, without necessarily having to take significant classroom teaching time.

Finally, as a related issue, if students are encouraged to help each other and work in teams, no one will be left out... everyone can succeed in solving even tough puzzles that may be over the heads of some students working alone.

Our first question: does this philosophy ring true to you? Do you have other ideas that could help us better understand puzzling in the classroom?

Following are five specific areas that we would like to hear your ideas about. Please comment on any or all of these.

Variety of Puzzles
Our idea is that learning comes with experiencing a range of different puzzles, not just solving one. This is described above.
Organized Program
Our goal is to design an organized program where students are called on to solve puzzles as part of a program. We're looking to design a program that will put students into teams, and teams will score points (or be recognized in some way) when all students on the team have mastered a given puzzle. Does this ring true for you? Would a program like this interest you? Other ideas?
Storage System
For a puzzle program to work, we think there needs to be a central repository for the puzzles to reside when they're not being played. What kind of system would work for this? Do we need to provide a storage system? What should this be like? Is this important?
Cost/Pricing of Puzzles
Larger, more durable puzzles will cost more, and smaller, simpler puzzles will cost less. What matters to you? Is it better for us to focus on lower cost, so you can afford to buy more and have more variety in your classroom, or is it better to focus on higher end designs that will be more enduring? We're always going to try to make the best quality possible; but the approach will be different if we know we have to meet a $5 or $8 price because budgets are tight. What are your thoughts?
Lesson Plans
How important are these to you? What should we put into lesson plans? Would you be willing to help write a lesson plan?

Any specific recommendations for puzzles to use in this program?

Other thoughts?

Other approaches?

Thanks in advance for your help!
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Last Updated: March 28, 2005 top
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