09 December 2009

How can we turn teaching problems into teaching puzzles?

For some time, I’ve been trying to think about what lessons games have for teaching. At the always invigorating Ted Talks, Scott Kim makes me wonder if I should also be thinking about puzzles. Kim defines a puzzle as a problem that is fun to solve and has a right answer. Games, he argues, have no “right answer.”

In teaching, we are often trying to get students to come to a “right answer.” (Indeed, students come to expect that there is always a right answer, somewhere in the back of the book somewhere. One of the hardest things to convey to students is how often the answer to a question is, “I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody does know.”) To help students remember the “right answer,” we give students problems.

Problems are easy to make; puzzles are hard to make. The problem keeps coming back to, “How do you make it fun?” Some people play games to entertain themselves, but others play to challenge themselves.


Noelle said...

It's an interesting idea. Students who enjoy puzzle solving could maybe benefit if they were taught techniques to look at real world problems as puzzles.

Anonymous said...

I really like this distinction. Like you (okay, reading into a little here, but not that much!), I'm often frustrated by students' inability to realise that there is no such thing as "the right answer". Nice.

desihabits said...

An interesting & informative post!