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Losing It
  Teaching Guide

Activity 2: Grades 9-12
Puzzle Solving

Memory, like most brain abilities, seems to suffer fewer ravages of aging in individuals who keep mentally active. Scientists believe this may be due to the continued reinforcement of the brain cell pathways along which thoughts travel. As you think, messages move along the living network of brain cells. When a brain cell is stimulated, it releases chemicals called neurotransmitters. Some neurotransmitters carry messages to neighboring cells. Others maintain the health and longevity of the inter-cellular connections. Still others encourage the growth of new cell connections to produce even more robust pathways. So by using an assortment of thinking pathways, you can sustain and even improve the fitness of your network of brain cells.

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This activity page will offer:

  • A minds-on and hands-on experience in puzzle solving
  • An opportunity to apply and sharpen critical thinking skills
  • An arena to think out of the box
  • An opportunity to create a puzzling challenge

Puzzle Solving
Recent research suggests that puzzle solving may be more than just a pleasant hobby or pastime. It may have a therapeutic role in preventing or at last delaying senility. Puzzles often require novel or creative approaches to examining situations. This engages a robust series of brain cell connections. Here is an assortment of puzzles that should not only entertain and challenge you, but also stimulate the growth and health of your brain cell.

Build This Bend
Examine the diagram. Note the unique orientation of the bend, especially how it relates to cutout regions of the base card. Okay, now that you've seen it - create it. Using one rectangular scrap of paper and scissors, manufacture this shape. HINT: The answer may be more twisted then the bend's odd appearance.

Rate This Puzzle
Working independently, three teachers can grade three exams in three hours. Using this same rate, how long would it four teachers to grade four exams?

No Calculus Allowed
Here's a thinking challenge that at first may seem as if it requires higher math to solve. It doesn't. The solution is simple, as long as you can uncover the logical connection in the puzzle pieces.

Suppose your friend trained a falcon to fly from her shoulder to the shoulder of a designated target. Once at that target, the falcon reverses direction and immediately heads back to her shoulder. Once there, however, the falcon flies straight back to the target. On and on it goes, until the poor bird becomes too exhausted to reversing direction without any loss of time or change in speed.

Now, here's the challenge. You and your falcon-training friend are situated 12 miles apart. You begin walking towards each other, both at a constant speed of 3 mph. At the moment you begin, the falcon leaves her shoulder and flies to your shoulder. Once there, it reverses direction and returns to its trainer. Back-and-forth the bird flies until you and your friend meet.

If the falcon flies at a constant velocity of 30 mph, how many miles did it cover in its series of back-and-forth flights? Assume that no time is lost and the bird immediately reverses direction upon reaching each person.

Nesting Dolls
Nesting dolls are toys that contain smaller and identical toys within their hollow structure. Suppose you had a nesting doll that was one foot tall. Each nesting doll within this one was one half the size of the previous doll. Suppose there were an infinite number of dolls and you removed them and placed them atop of each other. About how tall will the stack rise?

Spider and the Ant
Suppose a spider was sitting at one corner of a sugar cube. An unfortunate ant was positioned at the opposite corner. The spider plans its strike by inferring the shortest path along the cube surface as shown by the dashed line. However, in this case the shortest distance over the surface is NOT shown the dashed line. The shortest path is the bent line illustrated by the solid blue line. Can you explain?

Make Your Own Puzzle
Do you think you can create your own puzzle? It may not be as diffficult as you think. Consider the parts of a puzzle. How does the "trick" fit into the strategy for solving a puzzle? Take another look at the previous puzzles. What tricks, novel solutions, or "exceptions to the rules" might be applicable to the creation of a new puzzle? Create a new puzzle scenario and share it with classmates.

Web Connection

Brain Teasers for Education and Fun
An assortment of grade 7-12 brainteasers, riddles, and lateral thinking puzzles.

Brain Boosters
A robust assortment of math and logic puzzles.

Puzzles Online

A free online puzzle book with all sorts of puzzles and math thinking skill challenges.

Leisure Activities Help to Decrease Dementia Risk
A short synopsis on research done at Einstein College of Medicine on dementia onset and the active mind.

Academic Advisors for this Guide:
Suzanne Panico, Science Teacher Mentor, Cambridge Public Schools, Cambridge, MA
Anne E. Jones, Science Department, Wayland Middle School, Wayland, MA
Gary Pinkall, Middle School Science Teacher, Great Bend Public Schools, Great Bend, KS
Cam Bennet Physics/Math Instructor Dauphin Regional Comprehensive Secondary School Dauphin, MB Canada



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