Why puzzles?

Do not keep children to their studies by compulsion but by play.  – Plato

If your goal is to develop mathematical skills or help others develop them, you’ll notice that these puzzles and games are more than fun – they involve sequential and spatial reasoning, as well as logical arguments of many sorts.  Examples of the type of questions that arise:  What do we know for sure?, What must happen next if I put this number here?, What is the only possibility here?, What can’t possibly go here? 

Puzzles and games encourage mathematical habits of mind that include:  not giving up, making sure you understand the given information and the goals, being aware of any assumptions you make, being willing to start over, and generalising from the original problem.  It’s amazing what you can learn, just by playing around!

Play is the highest form of research.    – Albert Einstein

We all know that mathematics is important, hard work, and very serious. BUT…it can also be a  whole lot of fun.  Don’t tell anyone, but most mathematicians will admit that they think of their work as  play.

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.    – George Bernard Shaw

Not everyone enjoys formal mathematics, but most people I’ve met love to hunt for patterns and solve puzzles.  Thousands of people, from 5-year-olds to 85-year-olds, have taken delight in these puzzles.  You might, too, and you might find yourself hunting for more – see the Resources tab for suggestions. There’s nothing like the thrill of figuring out something new to make you feel like a kid!