Rarely, if ever. Group puzzles provide a readily available source of self-directed
educational activity that can be used at any time between other activities. Puzzle solving activity can easily be interrupted and resumed because the student records
their progress on the puzzle paper itself. In fact, learning can even be enhanced by
this because, when work on the puzzle is resumed, the student will likely have forgotten
exactly what they were last working on and have to retrace those logical steps, re-enforcing
correct deductions or providing an opportunity to discover errors. It is the thought process
and practice that is important for learning deduction and logic.
Group puzzles cannot teach anything about logic and deduction if the students do not apply themselves.
So, the most important thing a teacher can do is to make sure that students see them as fun and not another
school chore. We have several recommendations about how to accomplish this.
- Rarely, if ever, make Group Puzzles an assignment. Never grade them.
Students should be encouraged to see them as a reward to keep the fun factor
- The rare exception to the rule above would be the first time you present group
puzzles to your students. For that occasion, pick a very simple, very small puzzle,
such as a 4x4 or a 4x4oc. Then present your students with a wide variety of puzzles
and let them choose, but be prepared to guide them towards puzzles that you feel are suitable
for their current abilities.
- Nearly always allow them to work in groups of two or three. The rules are so simple,
that students of all ages can usually teach each other. Moreover, the opportunity to socialize
while working on the puzzle is also a reward that makes them fun.
- Use the step-by-step solutions we provide on the web-site. Your time is limited and you cannot
work all the puzzles before your students, and if you use the solutions, there is no need to do so.
- When you fist introduce Group Puzzles to your students, only use the version of the puzzles from the
web site that has the step-number at which a location can be solved annotated in the empty location. This shows
the students where to start looking for deductions and is an important study aid. You can gently try to
encourage student to move to puzzles without those hints, but there are still many valuable deductive lessons
to be learned using puzzles with the steps numbers and, more importantly, step-annotated
puzzles do not risk student frustration at puzzles that are currently too difficult.
- When introducing new or more difficult puzzle types, for the same reasons described above, always start with the puzzles
that are annotated with steps marked in empty locations. Let the students choose when to move to puzzles without step annotations.