Puzzle-based learning

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Puzzle-based learning refers to the use of puzzles in order to train higher-order thinking skills like problem-solving.

Falkner et al. (2010) specifically target “The puzzle-based learning approach aims to encourage engineering and computer science students to think about how they frame and solve problems not encountered at the end of some textbook chapter. Our goal is to motivate students while increasing their mathematical awareness and problem-solving skills by discussing a variety of puzzles and their solution strategies. The course is based on the best traditions introduced by Gyorgy Polya and Martin Gardner over the past 60 years.” (Falkner et al., 2010)

“The ultimate goal of puzzle-based learning is to lay a foundation for students to be effective problem solvers in the real world. At the highest level, problem solving in the real world calls into play three categories of skills: dealing with the vagaries of uncertain and changing conditions; harnessing domain-specific knowledge and methods; and critical thinking and applying general problem-solving strategies.” (Falkner et al., 2010)

In addition Falkner et al. argue that “Educational puzzles can play a major role in attracting students to computer science and engineering programs, and can be used in talks to high school students and during open-day events. Puzzles can also be a factor that helps retain and motivate students” (Falkner et al., 2010)


Some references found in the article
  • Danesi. M, The Puzzle Instinct: The Meaning of Puzzles in Human Life, Indiana Univ. Press, 2002.
  • Gardner, M. (1961). Entertaining Mathematical Puzzles, Dover Publications.
  • Parhami. B, Puzzling Problems in Computer Engineering, Computer, Mar. 2009, pp. 26-29.
  • Polya, G. (1845). How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method, Princeton Univ. Press.
  • W. Poundstone, How Would You Move Mount Fuji? Microsoft's Cult of the Puzzle - How the World's Smartest Companies Select the Most Creative Thinkers, Little Brown and Company, 2000.
  • Wing. J.M, Computational Thinking, Comm. ACM, Mar. 2006, pp. 33-35.
  • M. Gardner, Penrose Tiles to Trapdoor Ciphers, Mathematical Assoc. of America, 1997.