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Math Brain Teasers for Adults

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Children are not the only ones who benefit from brain teasers! Use the ones in this lesson to get your adult learners puzzling over numbers and logic.

Why Math Brain Teasers for Adults?

Sometimes, when we hear terms like 'Brain Teasers,' our minds go straight to children. After all, they are more likely than adults to be studying math and to want ways to make learning particularly fun. But adults benefit from math brain teasers just as much as children do! For one thing, brain teasers are fun and cognitively stimulating. They can help exercise the memory and the ability to think logically. For another thing, completing brain teasers can be a great way to exercise problem solving skills that come in handy in the workplace and at home.

Brain teasers are puzzles and problems that require a little more thought than a straightforward computation problem might. They might also require more time. If you are presenting these brain teasers to a group of adult learners, consider letting them work in collaborative groups to figure out the puzzles. The brain teasers in this lesson are designed for an audience of adult thinkers, but they can also be modified to meet the needs of high school students and even younger.

Brain Teasers

  • Imagine that somebody gives you two apples and a key to a building that has 100 floors. The apples look exactly like each other. If you drop them, they might get bruised, and no one could eat them; on the other hand, you might get lucky and drop them as far as 100 floors without bruising them at all. What is the highest floor of your 100-story building that you can drop from without bruising more than two apples?

Answer: This game is a logic game but also a language puzzle. If you are given only two apples to begin with and the task is not to bruise more than two of them, you can drop them from any story of the building and never bruise more than two!

  • Imagine that you are standing in the middle of a hallway. There are three light switches on the wall. Each light switch turns on a different lamp in the next room over, and the door to that room is shut. You cannot see inside that room, and you can only open the door if you are going to go into the room. You can only enter the room one time. When you enter the room, each of the lamps must be turned off. How can you discover which of the light switches corresponds to which lamp?

Answer: If you turn on the right most switch and leave it on for two minutes, then turn on the middle switch and leave it on for one minute, then turn them both out and enter the room, you will be able to detect the correspondence by the temperature of the bulbs. One will be hot, one will be warm, and one will still be cold.

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