There’s a big difference between those students who can “do maths” and those who can explain what they’re doing and why. At all times our goal is to raise mathematical thinkers who have the skills to back it up.

Kids often ask me why they need to learn what they’re learning and how it is relevant to the real world. As part of my reply, I explain to them that maths trains the brain in problem solving and logic in ways that no other school subject does. In the “real world” it’s important to be able to break a problem into components, and come up with a strategy or solution that we are confident will work without actually trying it out first. There’s no point hoping that a design for a building will work and then finding out later on that the building will fall over! We need the science, calculations and reasoning to back it up.

So how can we engage kids in this sort of thinking when they’re young? Through logic puzzles.

The Farmer, Wolf, Goat and Cabbage Problem

This is a very famous problem (and there are a few variations in terms of characters) and one well worth thinking through. It’s a great one to discuss around the dinner table and it’s a puzzle that requires no mathematical knowledge – it just requires logical and rational thinking.

In a classroom setting I would have students solve this in groups and I’d have each group present their solution to the class. My emphasis would be on encouraging the students to clearly explain their solution and most importantly, why and how they know that it works.

So here’s the problem and the solution can be found here.

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The Small Canoe

A very similar puzzle to the one above, this puzzle requires four people and some supplies to cross a river and the restrictions this time are based on the weight of the people and the supplies.

The solution can be found here.


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Japanese IQ Test


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Now that you’ve warmed up with the first two, you’re ready for the ultimate puzzle to test your logic!

This one’s interactive, and make sure you have the sound on so you know if you’re making the right move or not.

Follow this link for the rules of the puzzle.

This link will take you straight to the interactive puzzle. Click on the big blue circle to begin.

As for the solution, I’m not going to provide you with a link to this one. Challenge yourself and your kids to work on it. I can’t stop you from googling, but give it your best shot!

Photo credit: unloveablesteve / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA