Monday, November 11, 2013

Logic Games and Brain Teasers to Sharpen Higher Thinking Skills

Practice is essential to honing any skill. Whether you want to juggle a soccer ball, master French, or solve algebraic equations with lightning speed, you've got to put in the time first. Research has long demonstrated that this principle holds true for higher thinking skills, too. Solving problems, deriving and applying rules, recognizing concepts, and using reason and logic are just some of the aspects of higher thinking, so it’s easy to see how those components are useful in school. People who practice using logic and problem solving skills are often better at thinking their way through problems more efficiently and flexibly. And games can be a great way to practice.

Here are some fun sites that provide opportunities for you, or young people in your life, to practice using logic to solve puzzles and brain teasers. (All games are free, unless specified.) Have fun!

The Set Game  – grade 4 and up

In this challenging game, players must group images on digital cards together to form a set based on concepts like the shapes, number of shapes, and features of shapes. This is a great exercise for concept-building, and the website provides a different challenge each day. Want more? The Set Game is also available through several apps and other websites, and the original card game version can be purchased from toy stores as well.

Traffic Jam  – grade 1 and up

This classic is now available online! Traffic Jam gives young minds a workout by challenging them to plan several steps ahead as they work to free the red car from a traffic jam. Cars on a grid block the red car’s path out of the jam, and users can only move the cars forward or backward to create a path. It will take several well-planned moves to do it! The site above shows the minimum number of moves required for solving the puzzle, so if kids figure it out in more moves than specified, ask them to try again with fewer moves. ThinkFun makes a concrete version of the game, for those looking for a more tactile experience.

Samorost  – grade 3 and up

Samorost is a delight. Players must help our hero Gnome navigate his way through a deliciously whimsical world to save his planet from an asteroid by solving a series of puzzles. Part of the puzzle, however, is figuring out what the puzzles are. We won’t give away too much, but rest assured that your kids (and probably you, too) will love clicking their way through this game to try to unravel its mysteries. Solved it? Check out Samorost 2, Machinarium, or some of Amanita Design’s other games. Although Samorost is free, some of Amanita’s other offerings require a fee.

One Hundred Doors – (age depends – see below)

Available for iDevices and Android through Google Play (search “100 Doors”), this game is downright addictive. The concept is simple: players must figure out how to open the door in front of them using clues they see around them. The reward for opening a door? Another door, which is slightly harder open. Sometimes players can find keys by knocking over objects with the swipe of a finger. Sometimes a code, hidden somewhere in the room, must be entered into the keypad. Sometimes ordinary objects will, upon closer examination, be arranged in a pattern that is critical to solving the riddle. The bottom line is that you should be ready for anything with 100 Doors! The first few doors don’t take much brainpower to conquer, but the puzzles get harder and harder as the game progresses. Younger kids will be able to pass the first few levels easily but may become frustrated with the later levels, so playing this game with a parent who can provide clues or making it a teamwork exercise with a friend could make it more enjoyable for everyone. Be warned, though: the later levels are bound to challenge even brainy adults! (Really stuck? You can find videos explaining how to solve each level on YouTube; simply type in the name of the game and the specific level.)

photo credit: flickr

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