Are Puzzles Too Old Fashioned for Modern Kids?

Puzzle building is a lost art, pushed aside by electronic gaming and dvd watching. Should you as a parent or teacher make any attempt to resurrect this lost art? Experts in the field of early learning tell us that young learners will benefit significantly from opening that puzzle box and putting the pieces together.

According to the article “Puzzles and Games for Preschoolers” by Alvin Poussaint, M.D. and Susan Linn, Ed.D., puzzles serve various educational functions in the development of young learners. Standing head and shoulders above the other advantages of playing with puzzles, is the fact that puzzle-building helps kids develop problem solving skills. And who doesn’t want a child who can think for herself and figure out solutions to every day problems?

Problem solving is a skill that goes well beyond the realms of mathematics and science. Without the ability to problem solve, relationships become dysfunctional and workplaces become a source of deadly stress. According to psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein in his article “Two Essential Skills for an Emotionally Healthy Life“, the ability to problem solve is critical for effective management our lives. Why then would anyone withhold opportunities for their children or students to develop this vital skill?

Poussaint and Linn suggest that trying to fit the puzzle pieces together helps children “learn the value of flexible thinking and persistence”. Moving and placing the pieces develops fine motor skills. Puzzle building also stimulates deductive reasoning and inference. The process of assembling a puzzle helps children understand that big things can usually be broken down into smaller parts. This realization is a critical element in successful problem solving.

Is it time for our children to put aside the gaming console for a little while and pick up an old fashioned box of puzzle pieces? To help young learners face life with well developed life skills, you cannot afford to procrastinate. Unpack that old jigsaw puzzle today.


Can I make my own linear equation jigsaw puzzle?

Converting your “less than exciting” linear equation worksheet activities to puzzles is possible with a small investment in some supplies and a slightly larger investment in time. To get started, find some sturdy, colorful cardboard, a ruler, black marker, a pair of scissors, self-adhesive lamination plastic, an elastic band, and a set of solved linear equations. Dark colored card tends to be difficult to read equations from, so avoid dark colors unless you are working with white or silver metallic markers. While I prefer working with black markers, any colored pens that create contrast with the background card color will work.

Your puzzle can take any form, but simple shapes are the easiest to work with. For beginners, I recommend a square puzzle with no more than 9 pieces. Use the ruler to mark out a square on the card, and divide the square into a table with 3 equally spaced columns and 3 equally spaced rows. If you are feeling less ambitious, start with a 2×2 table. Make sure the lines and boundaries of the puzzle are drawn in bold ink. Neatly insert an equation along a side of a cell that has an adjacent cell. The solution to this equation is filled in across the boundary line in the neighboring cell. Try not to choose equations that will generate the same solution as this may cause confusion for learners who are new to this type of puzzle building. Duplicate solutions can be intentionally incorporated into more challenging puzzles, but should be avoided when first introducing these puzzles to a class or student. Complete the puzzle with equations and solutions, laminate the card for durability, and cut the puzzle into its individual pieces. Use the elastic band to keep the puzzle pieces together.

If you are new to putting the pieces back together, or want to know how to explain the process to your students, read “How to Solve a Linear Equation Jigsaw Puzzle“.