Tag Archives: Logic Puzzles

Guest Post: Puzzle Games vs. Video Games

I was recently contacted by Bogdan, the co-founder of the soon-to-launch social puzzle site globalpuzzle.net. While the term “puzzle” can range in meaning from the traditional jigsaw association to logic puzzles like Rush Hour, there are some notable differences between puzzles and video games – here he shares his insights…

Ben Spark giant RH 300x225 Guest Post: Puzzle Games vs. Video Games

Puzzle Games vs. Video Games

Puzzles differ from video games for various reasons. A puzzle poses a challenge that the gamer is required to resolve. In an ordinary jigsaw puzzle for example, the gamer is expected to put pieces in a consistent way to come up with the anticipated solution. Puzzles are viewed as forms of amusement, yet they are equally seen to be derived from serious arithmetic problems. Any smart resolution can lead to a pertinent contribution to the body of mathematics.

Puzzles Come in Levels

Puzzles and video games come in levels. When you finish level one, you advance to a new level with even more serious challenges. This makes the game captivating and worth the challenge. Simple puzzles are often traditional and have some foreseeable moves, and playing several times leads to monotony. Newest puzzles and video games have been developed in a way that breaks the monotony. A novice player can teach himself using a test level until he is ready to advance. This permits players to leave certain stages they have difficulties with and get back to them later if they wish. Otherwise, players can also choose to play within a given sequence. This maintains a serious investment in your game, as the gamer is not allowed to jump to the last stage at will.

Limited Hints

Unlike puzzles, video games have many hints that allow the player to temper the challenge. Creating a leeway through which players can avoid the challenge can also be detrimental if over-exploited. The initial stages of a video or puzzle game are often made so easy that players don’t get stuck, however as the game progresses, players will start getting real challenge.  In the long run, they tend to create objectives in terms of which levels they want to arrive at. That’s makes the game interesting. Because any serious play would require spending considerable time trying to master it, players wouldn’t dare relinquish their progress by quitting.

Video Gaming Perception

In the age of rampant video gaming, the judicial system has come up with its own unjustified theory as to why children should be weaned from playing video games. People worry games such as Doom, Mortal Combat among others might easily turn teenagers into serial killers or draw them to drug abuse. These allegations, while extreme, may have something to do with changing trends of parent purchases, making traditional puzzle play more attractive with their added benefit of being good for the brain.

Puzzles can be played in many forms

Many people like puzzles over video games because with puzzles, they have a wide field of play from articles, books, online, desktop, and so forth. For video games, they can play from all multimedia gadgets, but not using print media. One could argue this makes puzzles more diverse.  When people play a puzzle in print media, their interest develops – and they can extend their focus using online puzzle games to further develop their prowess.

Bogdan G. is a co-founder of www.globalpuzzle.net, a challenging online puzzle game where you participate by answering questions posted by people all over the world and solve a message hidden in a unique picture painted by a talented artist.

A Love of Game Play Runs in the Family…

I had a very informative email exchange with a customer recently who shared great insight on what he looks for in a game and the ways he sees his daughter’s thinking skills improving through play.  It’s clear Marcel has passed on a love of brain games to his little girl, and I’m pleased to share this post in hopes it inspires others to be more mindful about the games and toys we provide our little learners!

 

Hi Charlotte,

I often check your blog, and I really enjoy what you describe there. My 5 year old daughter likes to play several of the ThinkFun games!

Shape 5941 HiResSpill 150x150 A Love of Game Play Runs in the Family…

The big secret for us is variety. We have several ThinkFun games (for both my daughter and myself, as I like logic games a lot), but also lots of games from other companies Also, we have different tangram games (we have Shape by Shape and the egg-shape tangram from ThinkFun), and my daughter likes to play that as well.

Another thing that I personally find important is to only buy good games and toys for her. In Seattle, we have a store called Math-n-Stuff that sells lots of educational toys. When we need a new toy, I’d rather spend a little bit more money to get a toy that helps my daughter instead of some toy that she gets bored with after a day. Also, I spend quite a lot of time reading various blogs (including yours) to find out about good educational games.

What I really like about most of these games is how they start simple and slowly add more complexity. Initially, my daughter gets very excited when she can easily do it and gains confidence. But slowly things get harder, and she needs to start thinking how to solve the problems. Slowly, with some help from us, she is making progress with most of the games. However, after she has played the game for a while, she starts to really understand how it works, and is than able to finish the hardest levels in most of the games.

It normally takes her about 3-4 months to get there, but when she gets it, we can take out the game at any time, pick any level, and she is able to do it without any help from us. This is the part I really like about these games – that they gradually help the kids in doing more and more difficult problems, and when they get it, they can actually do most of the puzzles.

ipad chocolatefix 300x270 A Love of Game Play Runs in the Family…

Chocolate Fix for iPad

Another thing I just noticed is that you released Chocolate Fix for the iPad. Chocolate Fix is too hard for my daughter (5 years is a little bit young for that), but I enjoy the game myself. It is a great game to play.

One thing I like about the ThinkFun iPad games is that they allow you to undo your steps. For instance, I was playing Solitaire Chess (I have both the iPad and the board game), and I like the iPad version as it allows me to undo the last few steps. With the board version, it is much harder to remember what the last steps were, and often I have to start from the beginning as I forgot what my last few steps were. So definitely keep doing the iPad games!

Last but not least, please keep writing your blog. I think it is very informative, and I always get a big smile on my face when I read how the ThinkFun games make kids excited about logic and math concepts. When these concepts are presented in the normal way (i.e. drilling), kids tend to get bored very quickly, but when you add the game concept to it, they suddenly get super-excited and are learning lots of skills without even realizing it.

Take care, Marcel

 

What qualities do YOU look for when choosing games for your kids – or for yourself?!

A High School Math Teacher Sharpens Students’ Thinking Skills with Brainteasers!

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.

 A High School Math Teacher Sharpens Students Thinking Skills with Brainteasers!

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!

How to Spice Up an Algebra Class? Just Add Games!

This post is courtesy of Lisa Kosanovic, a Math Teacher at Holyoke High School, Holyoke, Massachusetts

*Note: The GridWorks game referenced here is the precursor to the current Chocolate Fix game!

Lisa Kosanovic 300x225 How to Spice Up an Algebra Class? Just Add Games!
I teach high school math in the sixth poorest community in the nation, and for us, math class is too often about passing our state’s standardized tests. While many of my students lack basic skills, I often see a high level of reasoning and problem-solving skills that I want to develop and encourage.

Several years ago, I bought ThinkFun’s GridWorks game (*now Chocolate Fix) for my own children, who loved it. Soon thereafter, I was working through a state test problem with one of my Algebra I classes, and I realized that the problem drew on exactly the same skills that GridWorks did! After several attempts to recreate the game using overhead transparencies, I contacted ThinkFun and asked if they could send me sets of the GridWorks pieces. I knew that if I had a set for each student, I could simply put the challenges on the chalkboard using colored chalk, and my students could work the problems at their desks.

What a success! Even the most reluctant of my students enjoyed using this game, and several came up to me after class to talk about it. One of my Pre-calculus students said she was pleasantly surprised by how much she had to think on the most challenging puzzles (I put 10 challenges on the boards around my room, including the two most difficult), and by how much fun it was to think hard in that way. Another student with serious attention issues insisted on starting with the most difficult problem, and he worked diligently through an entire class period. When he did not finish the problem, he asked if he could come back during the next class to finish, and when he returned, he stayed with the problem until it was completed correctly!

My only regret is that there are not books and books of GridWorks challenges! With GridWorks, I saw many otherwise-unengaged students using math skills to solve problems, and enjoying themselves at the same time. I will use this with my students every year to teach them problem-solving skills and show them that math can be fun!

*Read how another innovative High School math teacher took this same game, now in Chocolate Fix form, and used it to teach his students to make geometric proofs!

Rush Hour in Cairo Egypt!

Here’s a photo of a real-life Rush Hour traffic jam sent to me by Laura Efinger, a pediatric occupational therapist (and big Rush Hour fan!) in Cairo, Egypt.  Laura writes, “I have attached a picture of some Cairo traffic, which may explain why we love Rush Hour in Egypt! icon smile Rush Hour in Cairo Egypt!  Some is parking and some traffic, but it probably is the worst in the world, and no one follows the lines in the road and rules!”

cairo traffic jam Rush Hour in Cairo Egypt!

A Real Life Traffic Jam in Cairo, Egypt

All that’s missing is the Red Car!

Picture 24 Rush Hour in Cairo Egypt!

A much more enjoyable "Traffic Jam" challenge!

For several years, Laura has used many ThinkFun games, including Rush Hour (which she reports is the hands-down favorite!) in her occupational therapy sessions with children in  Cairo, Egypt.  Laura writes, “I love them [ThinkFun games] as they develop the children’s visual motor/perceptual skills, fine motor, memory and planning skills.”

At a 2008 Occupational Therapy Conference, Laura presented a therapy-based workshop called “Recipes for Fun” in which participants were shown ways to use games like Rush Hour as tools to help children develop academic and sensory motor skills.  Looks like fun was had by all!

Cairo RH 300x225 Rush Hour in Cairo Egypt!Cairo RH2 300x225 Rush Hour in Cairo Egypt!Cairo RH1 225x300 Rush Hour in Cairo Egypt!Cairo RH3 300x280 Rush Hour in Cairo Egypt!

Laura is preparing for this year’s Conference which will take place at the end of the month. Here she plans to host a workshop focusing on the benefits of using card games to help children with skills such as attention, sequencing, memory, fine motor, etc.   Stay tuned for an update!

For more on Laura and her work, please visit her Occupational Therapy in Egypt blog!

Can Chocolate Fix Teach Geometry? Here’s PROOF!

The following is a post by guest blogger Sean Gregory, a math teacher at Napa High School, Napa, CA

fix 006 300x199 Can Chocolate Fix Teach Geometry? Heres PROOF!Games are a normal part of my classroom. I have always loved games personally and believed that I would be a better teacher if I put a part of myself into my teaching. My students from the past 20+ years will remember playing all sorts of gambling games, Jeopardy!, and treasure hunts. I’ve even adapted several off-the-beaten track games like PitchCar, Hamsterolle , and Elchfest into full-room class activities. While these games were vehicles for fun, they were more a source of diversion from the mathematics problems that I loaded the play with.

As a teacher of mathematics, I know that some games come with built in traits that I would love to exploit in class. So, like many others before me, I have incorporated games like Mastermind and Clue into my room to build my students’ deductive skills. I was pleased by the opportunity that I gave my classes with these games, but I also felt that the games did not play well given my restraint on time and my large number of players.

fix 004 200x300 Can Chocolate Fix Teach Geometry? Heres PROOF!I wasn’t really looking to replace Clue or Mastermind when I went to the ThinkFun workshop at the 2009 NCTM National Convention but that is exactly what happened. ThinkFun’s Chocolate Fix puzzle was a clever, compact, pure deduction puzzle. While its appeal to most people might be the fun that they would have with cute little plastic pieces of chocolate, I saw my opportunity to use it as an aid to my Geometry students who believed they could never produce a deductive proof.

Perhaps I would have seen Chocolate Fix’s application to my class on my own, but the workshop offered  ideas on how to implement the puzzle in a classroom. The activity that spoke the most to me was ThinkFun’s idea that we should not only complete the puzzle, but also share the order in which we used the clues to figure  out the solution. Suddenly I wasn’t playing with a puzzle but was seeing a plastic chocolate manipulative that could help my students prove triangles congruent.

People are natural problem solvers, but in a math class students suddenly lose their confidence, ability, and desire to work things out. Surely if I can finish a Chocolate Fix puzzle and know that I used the clues in the order 3-5-2-1-4, then I can form a geometric proof with vertical angles, SAS, and CPCTC. I was determined to convince my classes that the puzzles they were completing in Chocolate Fix were harder than many of the proofs that they could barely start.

fix 005 300x199 Can Chocolate Fix Teach Geometry? Heres PROOF!

From 9 plastic chocolates, a mathematical proof emerges!

I had no money to put into buying Chocolate Fix games, so  I passed out scissors and had the class cut out pieces to make their own games. It is a tribute to the kids’ desire to play that they eagerly cleared all these hurdles without complaint! The class finished their hour happily working the puzzles.

The next day, I encouraged the students to solve the puzzles with their cut-out pieces. About half the class gave up on the pieces and just made it a pencil and paper thing. Towards the end of the day, desiring some product, I challenged the students to pick a puzzle and share the order that they used the clues AND write about why they made their choice.

kelty1 197x300 Can Chocolate Fix Teach Geometry? Heres PROOF!

A student's written proof provides a map of his problem solving steps!

After school I was shocked at the quality of the written explanations (often with diagrams) I had collected. My Geometry classes do push written explanations but I had never seen such quality so early in the year. It was clear I was on to something.

The class’s excitement for the puzzle grew and grew. They looked forward to our days with it and showed their enthusiasm by giving me frequently spectacular written explanations of their puzzle solving. I put Chocolate Fix questions on exams. I dazzled the class with my own (real) set of the puzzle, and by the end of the first semester had convinced the school’s parent club to buy a class set of 36 puzzles.

As the semester ended, I put my last Chocolate Fix problem on the final exam right next to questions about trapezoids and triangles and nobody seemed to think it out-of-place. I know that I have found the game that will be part of my deductive math classes for the rest of my career.

Three months later my students and I think of Chocolate Fix as “our puzzle,” a game we enjoy playing in class knowing that other math students are not so lucky.