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Puzzles, Teasers, and More

Grade 5, Interdisciplinary

Description of Unit

The purpose of this interdisciplinary unit is to experience and understand the higher order thinking processes in puzzles and brain teasers. Students involved will learn about the problem solving that is involved in individual and group dynamics. In the search for new and creative ways to challenge and confuse the brain they will develop a process for creating their own puzzles, brain teasers, or challenging games. The Puzzles, Teasers, and More unit is a connection to mental challenges that have been created over time to challenge the participant in an individual battle with his or her own intellect. Research shows that those who partake in active mind challenges maintain a much higher level of brain function at later ages. Puzzles and brain teasers are everywhere. Most daily newspapers have a page of word games and crossword puzzles that can provide the challenge the brain needs. Many phone operating systems have similar versions of these activities that challenge the mind and keep it sharp.

This guide links the Puzzles, Teasers, and More unit to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for fifth graders. In this interdisciplinary unit, students will research the history of several mental challenges— such as Rubik’s Cubes, Sudoku, crosswords, or puzzle/game phone apps—and how these types of puzzles have been created over time to challenge the mind. Students will use problem solving and innovative thinking to explore and create new puzzles. The following document includes the applicable TEKS and the details of the Puzzles, Teasers, and More unit. The final section of this document presents the applicable Texas College and Career Readiness Standards adopted by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) on January 24, 2008.

Phase I. Learning Experiences

  1. Students will explore the following free online puzzles/games and discuss these questions: Free online puzzles/games:
  2. Students will explore online games and apps designed for brain health. Give students an opportunity to add more if they know of others. Students may rank them in order by difficulty, time, or entertainment:
    • Lumosity
    • CogniFit Brain Fitness
    • Personal Zen
    • Brain Trainer Special
    • Brain Fitness Pro
    • Happify
    • Positive Activity Jackpot
    • Fit Brains Trainer
    • Eidetic
    • ReliefLink
  3. Students will form pairs and use three different types of puzzles to test and survey for difficulty, time, and entertainment ( They will complete a word search, a crossword puzzle, and a Sudoku puzzle, and they will be timed in the process. The students will then rank the puzzles and record with the class on chart paper the difficulty, the amount of time each required, and the level of entertainment. Both entertainment and difficulty will be ranked on a scale of one to five. This activity will engage the students in decision making for their future project.
  4. Another type of challenging puzzle is the Japanese puzzle box. The students will read about the history of the Japanese puzzle box ( and discuss contemporary inventions that are similar in shape, design, and purpose (e.g., the Rubik’s Cube). After researching the origin and history of the Japanese puzzle box and the Rubik’s Cube, students will compare and contrast the two types of puzzles in a Venn diagram.

Phase II. Independent Research

A. Research process

  1. Selecting a topic. Students will select a puzzle, brain teaser, or game they are interested in creating. They will conduct more research on this type of mental challenge. They will brainstorm about the interest they have and what it is that makes a game or puzzle interesting to them.
  2. Asking guiding questions. Students will select three to five questions, such as the following:
    • How was this puzzle, game, or app created?
    • What is the brain science behind this puzzle, game, or app?
    • How will this puzzle, game, or app challenge a person’s thinking?
    • How will this puzzle, game, or app entertain an individual?
    • How has the puzzle, game, or app changed over time?
    • What rules or guidelines must a person follow to create this puzzle, game, or app?
    • What will be different about my puzzle, game, or app?
  3. Designing a research proposal. Students will determine what sources (primary and secondary) that they will use to collect information. This information will support the students in the creation of an original puzzle, game, or app. They will create a rough draft, sketch, or design for their proposal. This rough draft will be presented to the teacher.
  4. Conducting the research. Students will use research to help them create a challenging puzzle, game, or app that is hands-on and entertaining.
  5. Conclusions/Sharing. Students will share their learning through the construction of a prototype or model. Student will summarize their research in a written paper (with citations), and they will give a five-minute presentation on their device or design.

B. The product

Students will create a complicated, challenging product that is hands-on and entertaining. Students will choose from the following options:

  1. Build a prototype or model of a hands-on product. Give a five-minute demonstration that explains the device and gives ideas for how the product will be marketed and put into production.
  2. Build a storyboard of a digital game using a free online tool ( Give a five-minute presentation describing the game’s requirements or rules, the levels of the game, and what is involved for a participant playing the game.
  3. Build a series of word games that range in level of difficulty. This will include five challenging math-based, word-based, or trivia-based puzzles that increase in difficulty as the participant progresses. Present copies to the class for completion and give a five-minute presentation explaining the brain science behind their creation.

C. Communication

Students will communicate their learning by giving a five-minute demonstration and explanation of their product. Resources for preparing a presentation are available for students (

D. A completed project consists of:

  1. A visual model of the product
  2. A presentation
  3. A written summary of the research of the history and brain science behind their choice
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