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 challenging tasks. 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.”
This type of activity is 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 ones 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 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 types of teasers to get an idea of how to write your own or alter one for your needs.
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 them correctly. However, Professional Learning Board offers some great tips about incorporating teasers, such as:
- Warm-up teasers – Let students or groups of students solve a brain teaser before a lesson to reinforce what was taught the day or week before.
- After mini-lessons – Challenge students with simpler brain teasers after each new concept you introduce. These aren’t as challenging, but still engage students.
- Break-time teasers – Students need some time to really process what they’re learning, so let them take a break. However, give them teasers to enjoy during their break time.
- Teaser day or week – Set aside a day or a full week for these activities. Let students work in groups to solve them and then present their methods for finding the answer. Explaining their process helps everyone learn.
Another great idea I love is to make solving brain teasers a rewarding activity. Give students points for answering correctly. Students could trade in points for something special or for extra credit.
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.
- Briangle provides 92 pages of math brain teasers
- Math Warehouse offers math logic and riddle puzzles
- Brain Den has a variety of math teasers
- A Daily Brain Teaser has a wide variety, including math
- ELT Teacher’s Corner only has 12, but they’re great to start with
And there’s always Pinterest – an endless supply of brain teasers to help your students practice logical thinking and math concepts.