Puzzles in Education: The Power of Play

Puzzles in Education

Beginning 5,000 years ago; reading and writing have been the base for formalized education.

In more recent times, computers have been used increasingly assisting with access to information, communication, and type of processes. Toys and games are associated with PLAY – almost everyone likes to play, right? And such desire continues throughout an individual’s life. Psychologists inform us that play is not just a means of filling a void and avoiding boredom, or even just a leisure activity but an important learning experience.

Puzzles are like brain food – they teach creativity, logical thinking and dexterity skills. Toys and games play a large part in the early development of children amongst many developed nations. Adopted for example by the Montessori school, puzzles present an innovative, child-centered approach to education. 

This by no means a new phenomenon, toys have been used in education for upwards of 4000 years – many of the toys are still being used in some form of other.

Thinking back to your childhood years I bet there were puzzles that you found fun and which also made significant contributions to your learning. Games are a form of play - however, they also provide an environment in which game players can learn about themselves. Puzzles provide an environment in which one can interact with other people and develop social skills.

For example: From the beginning of your life, you probably played with your fingers and toes – and then an adult joins in with this play, the play then evolves into numeracy game – and then into rhyme – one, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive.

Play is seen as a way of working off aggression – and learning the basics of survival, particularly in the animal kingdom; it’s also seen as a means of learning social behaviors – like co-operative games, as well as a commonly accepted means of relaxation.

In the modern age of computers, it has been argued that children learn rapidly how to operate the computer through exposure to games since they are motivated to do so. If this argument is accepted, then we have a concrete concept of learning through play.

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Computational Thinking

Computational thinking is a fundamental skill for everybody – not just computer scientists. Reading, writing and arithmetic: games provide a fruitful environment to explore the ideas of computational thinking. A puzzle is a variety of game where one is attempting to solve a particularly mentally challenging conundrum - the fun is in meeting the challenge of the puzzle.

Although exposure to computers is reserved for the most part to developed nations – children from other countries can still be exposed to science and technology through toys and games. For many it will be the only experience they get of technology and science through their primary school education.

As teachers, you need to develop this idea – that learning can be fun. Since your pupils have likely been conditioned to school being a place of hard work and no play. The games-in education discipline received increased legitimacy in October of 2003 when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or as it's better known – MIT. Announced an initiative to study the educational roles of computer games. Many colleges and universities now offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs in computer games.

The fun is meeting the challenge of the puzzle – making some or a lot of progress in completing the puzzle. Some of the benefits of puzzles are obvious – crossword puzzles draw upon one’s general knowledge, recall, and spelling ability. Doing a crossword is much like doing a certain type of brain exercise. From an educational stance solving crosswords helps us maintain and improve one’s vocabulary, spelling skills, and knowledge of miscellaneous tidbits.

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