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Classroom puzzles: a little Link-a-Pix school project

Monday, December 6, 2004 Classroom puzzles: a little Link-a-Pix school project

My son’s school has a tradition where some parents give a special lesson to the children during the last week of the school year. The lesson can be about what they do, a place they’ve been to, an experience they went through, or anything else which might interest the kids. When the teacher asked whether I’d like to join, I immediately said “sure, I can show them our puzzles!”

The class was at the end of the 2 nd grade (8 year old) with about 25 students and I had 45 minutes to teach them how to solve Link-a-Pix puzzles.

Dave Green

I started with a brief introduction about puzzles in general and why people solve them (fun, enrichment, brain development, pastime etc.). It was interesting to see that many of these young children had both opinions as well as insight on this matter.

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I then hung a 10x10 Link-a-Pix poster-size puzzle (Puzzle 1) and asked the students what kind of puzzle they think it is. Each student was also given a copy of the puzzle. The answers were anything from “magic square” to “bingo”, so I explained that this is a game based on linking pairs of numbers, and the result is a picture. At this point they became very excited and started asking many questions.

Sense of satisfaction and achievement

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The second step was to explain the rules of the game. This took only a few minutes, but the students were confused. There was much noise in the classroom and questions were flying all over the place. It’s obviously impossible to clearly explain how to solve Link-a-Pix puzzles just by describing the rules – one has to actually do it.

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Now came the third step, which was the most difficult: to solve the first puzzle. This was done interactively. I asked questions like “what do you think should be the next move”, the students raised their fingers and I would ask one of them to show the class. If the answer was correct, I would draw the path and paint the squares on the poster, and if the answer was wrong (which happened more frequently) then I explained why (for example, the path can be routed another way).

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The solution progressed on the poster while the students were filling the squares in the puzzle in front of them, and after about 20 minutes the puzzle was completed. The students were delighted to see that their efforts produced a recognizable picture. One could actually see the sense of satisfaction and achievement, as they were running to line up in front of the camera with their fresh creations.

Eager to show the results

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The students were still very excited and enthusiastic, so we proceeded to the fourth step: each pair of students was given Puzzle 2 to solve on their own, while my son and I were helping those who got stuck. The students could solve the puzzles individually or in pairs according to their preference. At this point the classroom suddenly went quiet. I was amazed to see that all of the students were immersed in the puzzles, totally absorbed and detached.

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It was obvious they actually enjoyed painting the squares with their pencils. To my surprise, almost all of the students were able to solve this puzzle on their own, and those who made mistakes understood where they went wrong and were able to correct the puzzle. Again the students were eager to show the results to the rest of the class and proud to stand in front of the camera with their creations. This step took only 15 minutes, even though Puzzle 2 was larger and more difficult than the first one.

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The 45 minutes were over but the children wanted more, so the teacher decided to extend the class by 10 minutes. I gave Puzzle 3, and the children continued having fun. Two of the students managed to solve this puzzle, while many of the others took it home to complete.

Summary

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Overall this project proved as a great success. I was surprised at how open and eager young minds can be, and how well they can develop new strategies to tackle logic situations which were never encountered before. But most of all I was impressed by how focused and absorbed they became once they understood the rules and started to solve a new puzzle, and how delighted and proud they felt when they managed to solve it.

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About Dave Green

Dave Green is the founder and President of Conceptis Ltd. After 20 years in high tech and following a job loss during the 2001 dot-com crisis, he decided to convert his passion into a business.