Wednesday, February 3, 2010

lateral thinking and logic puzzles

It's been over a month since I last blogged,'s been too sunny to be tip tapping on my laptop, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it! Unlike our companions in the UK who have had the worst winter in over 30 years for those of us here in the Southern Hemisphere it's been 7 long weeks of sunshine and relaxation. Three cheers for global warming...hmmm....So, it's time for us to peel off those bikini's and boardies, set the alarm clocks and get that bicycle dynamo back into action again for the new school year.

What better time than at the start of the academic year to engage your students in a few lateral thinking and logical puzzles to get those clogs turning after their long summer break.  Besides, students usually have a few minutes to spare at the very beginning of the year as they get organised with their new timetables, orientation activities etc..
"It is now widely recognised that lateral and creative thinking are essential to innovation.  Perhaps the best known advocates of such thinking are Edward de Bono and Albert Einstein.  Einstein claimed that his theory of relativity arose from his imagination: he imagined himself on a beam of light and followed the light path.  Edward do Bono argues that most of our thinking falls into ruts, from which we need to extract ourselves".  Thinking tools or strategies aid this process."  
Future Thinking, Anne Sturgess, New Zealand Council for Educational Research, 2007
I highly recommend this book on Future Thinking by Anne Sturgess,  Future Thinking, is the culmination of several years work by staff and students at Hamilton Boys High School and is based on a range of current approaches to the teaching of thinking, and knowledge gained while the programme has been in place at the school.

Here are a few activities that I have found useful in the past and will have at the ready, if needed, for the first couple of days of term.

observation tests

9 faces IQ test
This is a fun, warm up activity to test your students observation skills, perhaps prior to carrying out an science experiment or investigation where good observation skills are essential (isn't that all science practicals!).

basketball video
Select half your class to watch the video and count the number of passes between members of the white team, the other half of your class to do the same for the black team.                                  Then ask for hands up as to who saw the gorilla, chances are it'll be only those students who were watching the black team!
copyright - Visual Cognition Lab, University of Illinois

burning candle
set the deceptively easy task of asking your students to make 30 observations of a burning candle, give each student a small burning candle (not a nightlight),

see suggested observations here

lateral thinking and logic puzzles

thinking outside the square
A familiar activity for getting your students to "think outside the square", they need to connect the 9 dots without lifting their pencil from the paper and using only 4 lines.

click here for teacher answers


link to zooley diagram
A fantastic critical thinking, logical puzzle suitable for primary students through to adults, I have used it with senior chemistry students prior to starting a unit on moles and molar masses.
click here for the zooley questions to go with the zooley diagram

click here for teacher answers

murder in a bookstore

a fun, divergent thinking puzzle within a cartoon, this is edited from Forensic Science (FORS) which was based on "murder in a bookstore" (Treat 1981)

click here for teacher answers

CLUE logic puzzle
some students find this a little difficult (which is great!), it is edited from Forensic Science (FORS), based on the CLUE game by the Parker brother, this version by Keith Barry

click here for teacher answers

The zebra puzzle 

Einstein's riddle

Einstein allegedly created this puzzle, there are many versions on the net, this is a copy of the 1st known version of this puzzle from 1962.  Apparently only 2% of the population can solve it.

click here for teacher answers

river puzzle
The aim of this game is to successfully transport everyone from one side of the water to the other, but there are rules as some people cannot travel together, a great logical puzzle.

click here for teacher answers

escape from library
Another excellent logical puzzle in which one needs to escape from the library by finding a several hidden objects and deciding on the best way to use them.

click here for teacher answers

word puzzles

This test does not measure intelligence but provides some gauge of your mental flexibility

click here for teacher answers

Rubus is from the Latin word "by things", pictures are used to represent words or parts of words.

click here for teacher answers


click here for teacher answers

click here for more riddles
click here for teacher answers to more riddles

So, there you go, a gentle intro to another hectic year as we juggle the 101 daily tasks that we as teachers have become accoustomed to,
animated emoticons and smiley faces
Have a great day!


  1. I used to have the Zooley puzzle, but I can't find the picture of the "zoo"....I have the questions, but no pictures. Do you have them to share? If so, would you email me a copy at Thanks

  2. hi, I have just emailed you the zooley diagram, questions and answer sheet.
    Ms Beaker

  3. Hi there - I also had the Zooley puzzle for many years... I remember first learning of it in one of my student teaching courses. All these years later I have misplaced it and I would love to get a hold of the diagram as well! My email address is Thank you, thank you! I really love your site!

  4. hi, I have just emailed the zooley resources including the zoo diagram to you, Enjoy it!
    Great to hear that you're enjoying my blog, it's a bit of lighthearted fun with a few useful resources along the way :-)

  5. hi all, the ZOOLEY puzzle can be downloaded from the free filesharing site (4 Shared) by simply clicking on the image and text above, then selecting download.

  6. Could you give me the answers to "Murder in a Bookstore"? I lost my copy of it and my students' worksheets are due on Monday.Please give me the answers at
    Thank you

  7. yes, of course, just click on the link above or go directly here
    I've emailed them to you too, :-)

  8. Just curious as to how you got my Zooley worksheet. Do you have all the answers? When I received the original copy that I updated to make it more readable it had no key. I cant download it here at my school due to our filter.

  9. Hi, so are you S L Wincour??? that is name provided on the reference given on my old paper version (dated 1986) of zooley, although later in your sentence you state "received.." hmmm... If you can't download it at school, then the obvious suggestion is to go home, to your local library and download the questions, diagrams and yes answers from the link given above. Good luck, damn good lateral thinking puzzle, one of the best there is out there :-)