The Puzzle

Tom Jensen Bloom High School
10th & Dixie Hwy
Chicago Hts IL 60411


The main objective of the Mini-teach is to make students aware of some of
the ways they process information so that they may become more skilled. To
develop Thinking Skills in science students.

Materials needed:

A puzzle (preferable manipulative, not crosswords, etc.) of sufficient
difficulty to challenge even the best students at the teaching level. This
miniteach used a spectral color matching puzzle with many, many incorrect
trials but apparently only one correct solution. There should be one puzzle per


1. The puzzle is introduced to the class by giving each student a puzzle.
The students are told to look at the puzzle carefully and record any and all
particulars of the puzzle. Time allotted for the part of the exercise will
vary with grade level and complexity of the puzzle.

2. As students begin completing step 1, start a discussion about the puzzle.
Typically this will include size, color, shape, number of parts, patterns,
similarity (or differences) of parts, etc. Before the discussion ends it is
important that each student knows the point of the puzzle. Note - they have not yet been asked to solve the puzzle.

3. After the discussion of the puzzle the students are given the following
assignment. The student is to formulate a clear method of solving the puzzle.
The solution is to be written in such a way as to be used by anyone at this
grade level to quickly solve the puzzle. Note - they have not yet been asked to solve the puzzle.

4.After allowing sufficient time to formulate a solution bring the students
into cooperative groups and allow them to formulate one grand unified solution
to the puzzle. The grand unified solution is carefully put in writing and given
to the teacher.

Performance Assessment:

The teacher takes each of the grand unified solutions and distributes them
to each cooperative group, being careful not to give a group their own solution.
Each group is now told to solve the puzzle using the grand unified solution they
have been given. Time needed to solve the puzzle is to be recorded.

A scoring rubric may be developed based on any number of criteria, such as
clarity of instructions, shortest time for a solution, brevity, reduction of
incorrect trials etc. The winner gets a big hand. See the Sample.

Scoring Rubric (Sample) 5 Points- The solution was clear, concise and allowed anyone to solve the
puzzle in less than 3 minutes. It included the mathematical possibilities of
the number of incorrect trials as well as the number of possible correct
solutions. It also noted the puzzle color very nearly matched the visible
spectrum as learned in physics. Finally it provided a painless solution for
eliminating the national debt.

4 Points- The solution was clear and allowed the puzzle to be solved in less
than 10 minutes with a minimum of wrong moves.

3 Points- The solution worked, but was long and/or difficult to understand.
Time was wasted modifying the solution.

2 Points- Some order and logic existed in the solution. It was unclear and
allowed you to make the same errors repeatedly.

1 Point- Solution was Trial & Error.

0 Points- Solution confused, frustrated and discouraged one from trying the


An exercise such as the puzzle, attempted at the high school level should
include the following thinking skills:
1. Attributing
2. Analyzing
3. Predicting
4. Comparing/Contrasting
5. Inferring
6. Problem Solving
7. (Cause & Effect depending on the puzzle)

In the discussion follow each step in the strategy the appropriate thinking
skill(s) should be mentioned by name and discussed. Example after step 1
Attributing (observations) and comparing and contrasting would probably be
appropriate. Eventually the students should begin to be aware of how they think
and become more skillful thinkers and learn some physics.

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