From DNA to Marilyn Monroe: The future of picture logic puzzles in education, final report-puzzles 3Monday, September 12, 2005
As of late, we have read and listened to a great deal of research concerning aging and brain activity. The baby-boomers are aging, quickly. Nevertheless, if current scientific research is valid, there is a way to exercise the brain to improve and retain vital memory skills well into our advanced years. Improved computer imaging technology has allowed scientist to record brain activity before, during, and after performing various tasks. There is now a tremendous amount of evidence that the “use it or lose it” philosophy as regards to brain activity is accurate. This being the case, I see a long and prosperous future for Conceptis-Type Image-Forming Puzzles in Education as well as in the mainstream public.
I must admit, although I keep abreast of current brain research, I was ignorant about these particular types of puzzles. I have never really been a puzzle devotee, mostly due to lack of time. However, the experiences that I had during this course took me by surprise. When I read about the popularity of Conceptis type puzzles sweeping the globe I was intrigued. Germans, Australians, and of course the Japanese are absolutely hooked on picture forming logic puzzles. People are even asking people to marry them in puzzles, they are wearing their favorite puzzles on T-shirts and there are innumerable magazines and contest devoted to solving these image forming puzzles. I feel as though I just woke up from another century, who knew?? I am impressed by people’s interest in and tenaciousness about solving these puzzles.
How to utilize these puzzles in my class
Obviously, this website was completely new territory and it looked both interesting and challenging. After having spent considerable time reading the articles and reviewing the choices, the two activities that I chose to work with my class on were the Computer Keyboard Activity and the Famous Americans activity. The question became how to utilize these puzzles in my class. Initially, I thought I might use the puzzles just for fun, before or after a quiz, or as an extra credit challenge. I also hoped to be able to use one or two of the activities to incorporate some basic terms of biology.
I was able to use the Link-a-Pix puzzles to reinforce basic terms; I demonstrated using an overhead projector. This helped a great deal and was effective with a large class. We used upper-case letters and the first challenge, after the demonstration was to solve for ABC. It took the kids awhile to get the hang of solving these puzzles but once they did most enjoyed. However, some found this activity “boring” and wanted to know the relevance, they wanted to move on. Students initially worked in pairs but most kids wanted to try the puzzles on their own. They had the option to do either.
First, I gave my students one folder per team (of two students), of letters from the Link-a-Pix puzzles. Teams of students worked to complete puzzles using DNA acronyms, DNA, RNA, mRNA, tRNA, and words such as cell and gene. Some students had difficulty so it worked out well using teams. For students who typically have visual processing difficulty I paired them up with a student of more ability in that particular area. It took most students two classes to complete; this is a time intensive activity. When the students completed their puzzles, we created a bulletin board of terms.
The Famous Americans Activity was our next task. After downloading the inverted MAPs, I practiced completing some of these puzzles myself. I really did need to work out the kinks for a while before trying to demonstrate and explain the directions to my students. These puzzles were a bit confusing at first, but after reading many helpful suggestions from class members, I developed a clearer “picture” myself. Once I clearly understood, I explained to the class, while I demonstrated on an overhead projector how Maze-a-Pix puzzles were different from the Link-a-Pix puzzles; and that in order to find the solution to their puzzle, they must follow the dotted line. I made copies of the four different puzzles that I hoped my students would solve; I did not identify the people.
Unfamiliar names and faces
After reviewing the descriptions of the Famous Americans Activity and thinking about how I might in some way tie them to my subject area I chose the following: Martin Luther King, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, and Ronald Reagan. The students then received their packets containing the four puzzles. This was not an easy task as most of these Americans were unfamiliar names and faces to my students. When the kids finished their faces, they could check the reference table complete with folders of pictures and articles containing facts about each of these celebrities’ lives.
This activity was a refreshing change of pace and was an interesting and fun activity to do during a month when there were so many disruptions to our regular class schedule. Although not science based, I used these puzzles to discuss my second favorite topic, social studies, and to incorporate the idea digital imaging technology.
I have become a convert to the use of puzzles
Because these four Famous Americans were unfamiliar to most of my students, interest really grew as they researched. We had some very interesting discussions. Always trying to make the connection to life science, we talked about, for example, the dangers of drug abuse and misuse, (Marilyn Monroe), and the fact that she was and still is considered beautiful, although not by today’s anorexic standard.
The impact of Alzheimer's on brain activity, and current research in that field, was discussed with (Ronald Reagan) as well as the impact of politics in the funding of drug research. Students then created a bulletin board and presented information that they had discovered about their Famous American. They are happy to have their picture taken in front of their masterpieces!
I have become a convert to the use of puzzles as a motivational tool definitely, and as an educational tool in many circumstances. Not to mention, anything that will help my aging brain is a welcome addition.
However, in light of standards based education, image-forming puzzles need to be directly related to the curriculum. Yes, you can be creative in many instances and make the necessary leaps but on a day-to-day basis teachers must follow the frameworks and have a great deal of information to convey in the content areas. It would be helpful to have Conceptis, if they are targeting the educational market, to align a few of their puzzles to these Frameworks as educational tools.
About the author
Peggy Clifford (cliffordm) is a public school Grade 7 Science teacher in Galvin Middle School, Canton, Massachusetts and a member of Polly Carter's NCTA Puzzle Course. This article is taken from her final paper for Spring Course 2005. See Peggy's profile.