When teaching math, I’ve always found that making it fun helps students better remember various concepts.
This idea led me to start using brain teasers to combine mathematical concepts with the challenge to think outside the box. It’s an exciting way to put the skills they’re learning to use without them even realizing it.
Students enjoy it, and I love seeing them master concepts without just doing endless math problems and drills. It’s a win-win for everybody.
What Makes Brain Teasers So Effective
I’m sure I’m not the only one who loves that sense of accomplishment that comes with figuring out a brain teaser. Students love that too. I’d love to say doing a dozen math problems gives that same feeling, but that isn't true for many students. Brain teasers are just more fun...besides, “teaser” sounds less intimidating than “problem.”
Brain teasers are ideal for boosting brain activity, which is why they’re used to help prevent brain decline. They’re also more fun, which reduces boredom, and we know that when students aren’t bored, they pay more attention and have better focus. Another reason they’re so effective is students are able to apply concepts they’re learning in a more real-world style way. This leads to improved memory:-)
How To Make It Content Specific
The great thing about brain teasers is they’re not set in stone. I see new brain teasers all the time, so that means someone, somewhere has to be creating them. This means if they can do it, so can I (and you). To make them more effective for students, create your own or modify an existing brain teaser to make it more content specific. For instance, a single brain teaser could involve both Geometry and Algebra.
Adding a brain teaser to the end of a lesson that reinforces concepts helps students remember more about the lesson. It’s also helpful to combine concepts over time to build on what students are learning over the course of several weeks or months. ProProfs has a simple tool for creating brain teasers. I recommend just checking out various brain teasers to get an idea of how to write your own or alter one for your needs.
How To Incorporate Brain Teasers
Honestly, I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to do this. As long as students are having fun and learning, you’ve incorporated brain teasers correctly. Professional Learning Board offers some great tips about incorporating brain teasers, such as:
How To Find Great Brain Teasers
This is probably what you’re most interested in! I could list hundreds of resources here, but I’m just going to list some of the most useful ones related to math brain teasers.