Wednesday, April 6, 2016

New TYPES of puzzles

We're over halfway done with the semester and my Games and Puzzles class has been fascinating and rewarding in many ways.

As I mentioned last time, our first foray in pencil puzzles was into Battleships, after which we've explored the pencil puzzles Nurikabe, Skyscrapers, and Masyu for a few weeks each. I was starting to become wary of the structure rut that I had been finding myself in, in which we would start with a new puzzle, investigate strategies in detail, try creating a puzzle of that type, and then the final result of the unit was the creation of a puzzle of that type given some twist.

So in class on April 6, I suggested the following challenge: work in groups of 3 or 4 to create a hybrid puzzle incorporating concepts from at least two of the four puzzles we have mastered this semester. I was encouraged by how quickly they took to the task. The discussions remained focused on the challenge and the discussions included all members of the group. In my other project-based classes I have a tendency to be very hands on. But for this challenge the students didn't need me at all---which is great! The ideas are flowing and the students are pulling in all the expertise that they have accumulated throughout the semester. I stepped in a few times to diffuse some concerns such as what is allowed in this new type of puzzle (Anything!) or when a group was having a heated discussion about the type of clues that they should include (What if you created two different types of puzzles?!)

My students started the semester solving the logic puzzles haphazardly and moved to thinking critically about solving strategies. They have progressed from creating puzzles of a specified type often without regard to uniqueness, to thinking critically about creating puzzles using a puzzle solver's eye. Now they are creating new types of puzzles! These transitions have been gradual and I can see my students' confidence building.

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