Ever since they read and loved the excellent Mysterious Benedict Society triology by Trenton Lee Stewart, Bean7 and Bean8 have been obsessed with riddles, puzzles and codes. Taking advantage of this passion, which was one that was shared with our closest home schooling friends, I devised a series of Benedict Puzzle Days for them.
A considerable amount of learning happened throughout these days and yet if you asked the children, they would definitely classify these sessions as play and not work. It was a joy to watch the fervour with which seven children ran around the house finding clues, working together to solve the riddles/puzzles and unravel the final hiding place of the treasure! In the process they were learning skills in criticial thinking, team working, problem solving, maths, word problems, vocabulary, general knowledge and much more. But more importantly, they had an awful lot of fun doing it!
The puzzle days are easy to create and can be pitched at any level. I created 10 puzzles for each team, with each puzzle resulting in a single letter. The resultant ten letters then spelled out the hiding place for the chocolate prizes! Here are some of the types of puzzles we included, although you could tailor them to work on literally any skill you wanted:
It was fascinating to watch Bean7 tackle multi step maths problems with speed and ease, purely because he had a vested interest in finding out the answer. Present a similar type of maths problem on a sheet of paper at a desk and this same boy would spin in his chair, stare out the window and prevaricate in any which way to avoid answering the question! But present it to him in the form of a game and he’s away!
In the problem below, they were given four different striped flags, some of the colours of which had numbers written on them and some totals were also given. Using this, they had to work out the values of the missing colours and slot them into the Netherlands and Venezuelan flags to work out the problem of Netherlands squared – Venezuela squared. The seventh letter of the answer to this problem was the first letter of the clue to the treasure’s hiding place.
In the puzzle below, they needed to use the Atomic Number of each of the elements in the riddle (namely Iron, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Boron and Argon) to work out the answer to the maths question.
2) Code Breaking
In the following clue they were practising their spelling skills as well as their code breaking ability. The missing letters spelled out a riddle – we all have two of these – and the sound of the answer to this – eye – was their first letter – I.
3. Logic/Problem Solving
The team had to use all their logical reasoning abilities to solve the complex problem below. Brain teasers such as these have been shown to boost brain activity, enhance memory and processing speed, improve concentration and provide emotional satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.
4. Word Problems
Here I added in all sorts of verbal reasoning style questions to practise these skills. If you like these types of questions, I’d recommend the game Dingbats.
6) Finding information from textbooks
In these types of problems, they are developing skills in becoming independent in their learning, not just asking their parents for the answers, but learning how to discover the answers for themselves.
The geography section had the children identifying European countries and locating place names using grid references on Ordance Survey maps.
All in all, the Benedict puzzle days have been a hugely positive, fun addition to our home schooling. We have lots more planned for 2018.