Puzzles and Cognitive Development

Tuesday, September 7, 2004 Cmetrick

When you hear the word ‘puzzle’ you probably associate the term with a 500 or 1000 piece jigsaw of a classic Monet painting in which all of the pieces seem to look virtually identical, or rather the popular New York Times crossword that you routinely do every Sunday with your grandmother. However, puzzles are more than just jigsaws and crosswords.

In fact, like the famous Rubik’s cube, puzzles are mind-boggling three-dimensional games that are initially arranged according to a particular attribute, in this case color, and after only a few twists and turns are almost impossible to re-arrange. As a child, the ‘sliding tiles’ puzzle was one that required me to exercise my brain in order to arrive at the solution, that is to arrange the tiles in a way that forms a picture or that consecutively orders the numbers.

Studies in the field of Child Psychology have found that puzzles are tools that enhance children’s development and have suggested a relationship between playing with puzzles and cognitive growth. According to Piaget, a 20th century Swiss Psychologist and one of the most influential Child Psychologists of our time, cognitive growth, specifically conceptual development, is primarily achieved by acting on the world. In line with this theory, it is believed that by actively playing with puzzles that can be explored or manipulated, a child will be more likely to understand concepts and further develop his or her own theories about them. It wasn’t until I played the ‘sliding tiles’ puzzle several times that I began to understand how to get a particular tile from one end of the board to the other. Eventually, I was able to speculate the order of tiles to be moved as well as the fastest way in which to do this.

Cmetrick, made by elogIQ, is the latest three-dimensional puzzle on the market. Like the Rubik’s cube, it can be transformed into a complex structure that will make you scratch your head in bewilderment. As with my experience with the tiles, you will need to use ‘the divide and conquer’ technique in order to solve Cmetrick. In other words, setting and achieving small goals first, and only later using those achievements to theorize about the greater solution. Like all puzzles, the solution is out there for you to find. Perhaps you will find it. Perhaps you won’t. Either way, you will experience a stimulating ride of a lifetime. That is, if you can handle the Cmetrick challenge.

About the author

Noa Rom is a co-founder of elogIQ, a company devoted to the development of toys that stimulate logical thinking. Noa graduated from the State University of New York at Binghamton with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University.