Brain Teasers for High School Students

Instructor: Laura Gray

Laura lives in the Boise, Idaho area with her husband and children. She holds a B.A. in secondary education (English and social studies) from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, a M.Ed. and Ed.S. in school counseling (K-12) from the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of South Alabama, respectively, and a Ph.D. in instructional design for online learning from Capella University. She teaches online at several colleges and universities across the country and has over 20 years of experience in education.

This lesson will stress the benefits of using brain teasers in the high school classroom and offers examples of several different types of brain teasers that are appropriate for high school students.

Why Use Brain Teasers?

Lots of high school teachers have their students complete a quick activity at the beginning of class. Some use journaling for this activity and others incorporate brain teasers into their daily lessons. But why brain teasers? Aren't these just fun little puzzles? What possible value can they have? The short answer to the puzzle question is 'yes!' They are fun little puzzles, but what makes brain teasers so valuable is that they get your students thinking and ultimately, that's what you want them to do while they are in your care. By waking up the brain, students can't just sit passively through a class and take notes. Instead, they are forced to problem-solve, step outside of their mental comfort zones, and stretch parts of their brains that may have been asleep until they entered your class.

Types of Brain Teasers

There are several types of brain teasers that you can use. No one is particularly more effective than the other. In other words, they all accomplish the same end goal for your students. Some brain teasers can be specific to the subject you teach, and others are good for a number of subjects. What they all have in common, though, is that they teach your students valuable skills.

1. Problems: This is the most common type of brain teaser. An example is, 'Caleb Smathers weighs 96 pounds. He has 3 cantaloupes that weigh 2 pounds each. Caleb has to cross a river by way of a rope bridge, but the bridge will only hold 100 pounds. The river is too wide for Caleb to throw any of the cantaloupes across. How will he cross the bridge?' Hmmm... Students can work alone or in pairs or groups to solve this problem. You can time them for 2 or 3 minutes. You might even be surprised at the answers they think of. Brain teasers often require creative thought to solve. By the way, the answer here is that Caleb has to juggle the cantaloupes.

2. Riddles: Riddles are fun and most people enjoy them, so why not incorporate them into your brain teasers? Most of us are familiar with the riddle asking, 'What first walks on 4 legs, then on 2, and finally on 3?' Again, you can choose whether your students work alone or in groups to answer the riddles. One strategy is to have them work alone for 1 minute and then pair up for the following minute if they still haven't answered the riddle. This riddle's answer happens to be 'man.'

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