As part of a recent problem solving week, we decided to use a puzzle video game as an introductory element to our maths lessons.
The Professor Layton games are available on Nintendo DS and 3DS and each game consists of an extensive range of puzzles within a mystery story to be solved by the character of Professor Layton. This, coupled with the fact that there are six games within the franchise, means that there are a vast amount of puzzles to choose from. The fact that these are available on the Nintendo DS means that you can make use of a visualiser to project the game onto the big screen. Alternatively, there are many websites on the web which have images of the puzzles which can be used to create paper copies of the puzzles.
The puzzles themselves are incredibly diverse, both in terms of the skills needed to solve them and in the level of difficulty. Over a series of lessons, you can cover a wide range of problem solving skills and target all levels within your classroom. In case you do not want to go to the trouble of solving the puzzles, there are many websites with solutions.
The children were motivated by the puzzles within the class in part because of the high quality delivery of the game, the fact that solving them moves you along in the game with a reward and because the puzzles are designed to be accessible to a range of people. There were several times when children announced that the puzzle was 'impossible'. It was an excellent opportunity to take children through problem solving strategies as you work together towards a solution. Many children asked if there was a way of taking the puzzle home to show parents and others.
There are, of course, many different puzzle games available across all sorts of formats, but these are favourites of ours. We will certainly be continuing to use these puzzles to inspire problem solving in the classroom.