This story is shared by Mat Reive, a High School Mathematics and Computer Science Teacher in Ontario, Canada.
In my high school math classes, it is common that I start the class off with a brain teaser. This is usually a brain teaser puzzle from either ThinkFun’s Visual Brain Storm set, an Ivan Moscovich or Martin Gardner book, or a brain teaser that I have gotten from the internet. The whole class participates and gets engaged in trying to solve these puzzles. If I ever forget the puzzle at the start of the class, they always remind me.
I have found brain teaser puzzles a great way to have fun, collaborate with each others, discuss problem solving techniques, and make connections to the curriculum. It is common that a student will think of a solution or strategy to a puzzle that I have never considered, and this always intrigues and excites me.
At the end of class, if students have some free time, I encourage them to try to solve some of the harder brain teaser puzzles, like a slider puzzle, Gordian’s Knot, or a disentanglement puzzle. They get right into solving these puzzles. Two things always surprise me when students are working on these puzzles — the problem solving strategies that they come up with on their own and their perseverance and determination to solve the puzzle. It is common that they want to borrow a puzzle from me at the end of class because they really want to finish it.
As a puzzle enthusiast myself, I love bringing this world of logic and hands-on problem solving into my classroom to share with students!