Week 7: Learning Math Skills with Sudoku
I love math. I’ve loved it all my life. I majored in math. It was the stepping stone to my introduction to computer science, which led to my career at Microsoft, and my creation of The Trip Clip.
Seriously, I love math. I just needed to get that out.
I also love puzzles. Puzzles of all kinds. And wouldn’t you know it? Puzzles are a wonderful stepping stone to math! Puzzles can teach a surprising number of math and computer science concepts, and the best part is that kids will think they’re playing, not learning.
Sudoku is one of many puzzles that can teach and hone math concepts, from very simple ones, to much more advanced ones, and The Trip Clip has 4×4, 6×6, and 9×9 Sudoku puzzles for kids.
- At its most basic, sudoku familiarizes kids with numbers. If you watch any beginning sudoku solver, you will see them whispering the numbers to themselves in order as they start with the 1’s, then the 2’s, then the 3’s, and work their way through each number, which means they do a lot of number sequence repetition and number recognition.
- Another benefit for very young players is simply practice writing the numbers. The 4×4 grids on The Trip Clip website can be solved by surprisingly young children, and they have nice big boxes to allow them to practice writing those tricky 2’s and 4’s.
- Sudoku is also a strong lesson in how to use process of elimination and deduction to solve a problem. These simple 4×4 puzzles help introduce kids into how this process of elimination works, and you may be surprised how quickly they can understand how to solve their first sudoku puzzles!
- Sudoku also teaches basic computer programming algorithms. No matter what approach they take, at some point kids will develop a consistent routine that they use to methodically work through the empty squares and find numbers they can insert into the puzzle. Their algorithm will tackle each column, or row, or box in an order that makes sense to them so they can find number to insert.
- And once they figure out what some of those basic algorithms are, they will invent extrapolation all on their own as they apply those algorithms to harder, more involved puzzles, and find out that it works!
And what makes Sudoku a truly great puzzle, is the deeper learning that can happen next.
- Kids will develop what feels like intuition about how to tackle each new puzzle they see, but what they think of as intuition is really a deepening ability to recognize patterns. They will start to quickly spot the row or square that is more filled in than the others. Or maybe they’ll glance at a puzzle and notice there are hardly any 2’s but an awful lot of 8’s, and they’ll know where to start.
- And the fun really begins when they start solving harder sudoku puzzles, where they may have to go down multiple paths before they can establish which one is the right path. Some much more advanced problem solving starts to occur at this point. Kids are essentially working through computer programming if/then statements to solve the sudoku puzzle.
- Kids will also be strengthening their memorization skills as they hold multiple paths in their head.
- These harder sudoku puzzles will also really stretch their problem solving skills, including their ability to reason and deduce.
- Last but not least, sudoku teaches focus, concentration, and perseverence, with a great payoff of a feeling of satisfaction for sticking with it and knowing for sure at the end that you’ve solved the puzzle correctly.