AWOKK, Day 8: KenKen in the Classroom
Eight days a week…
Yes, I know that this series is called A Week of KenKen, and I’m fully aware that there are only seven days in a week. But if the Beatles can love you for an extra day, then I can certainly write an extra post about KenKen. In case you’ve missed the fun we’ve had previously…
- Day 1: Introduction
- Day 2: The KENtathlon
- Day 3: KenKen Times
- Day 4: My KenKen Puzzles
- Day 5: Harold Reiter’s Puzzles
- Day 6: KenKen Glossary
- Day 7: KenKen Puzzle for 2016
Tetsuya Miyamoto created KenKen in 2004. Twelve years later, millions of KenKen puzzles are solved every day by people all over the world.
His original intent was not to create a global math sensation. Instead, he wanted to help his students improve their calculation skills, logical thinking, and persistence. Who knew that he would accomplish both?
KenKen puzzles are perfect for the classroom because they provide the same level of practice and repetition — sometimes affectionately known as drill-and-kill — as a worksheet full of problems, yet providing a significantly higher level of engagement.
Most students would have no more interest in answering the following questions than they would in removing their toenails with a pair of pliers:
Use only the numbers 1-5, in how many ways can you…
- write 300 as a product of 4 factors?
- write 40 as a product of 4 factors?
- write 13 as a sum of 5 numbers?
- write 12 as a sum of 4 numbers?
- write 5 as a quotient of 2 numbers?
Yet wouldn’t students be willing to at least try this 5 × 5 KenKen puzzle? The cognitive demand is the same, but as any marketing guru or parent trying to get their kids to eat vegetables will tell you, it’s all about the presentation.
Because of the puzzle’s appeal and impact for students, the KenKen in the Classroom program was created. Every Friday, teachers who’ve signed up will receive free puzzles, which can be printed for distribution to students.
KenKen puzzles deal with a lot of mathematics beyond the four binary operations, including factors, parity, symmetry, modular arithmetic, congruence, isomorphism, algebraic thinking, and problem solving. Harold Reiter, John Thornton, and I wrote about these topics and how to use KenKen in a secondary classroom in the article Using KenKen to Build Reasoning Skills.
Even better than solving KenKen puzzles, though, is having students design their own. And to that very point… the 5 × 5 puzzle that appears above was created by my son Alex when he was 6 years old.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this week of KenKen posts as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. I’d love to hear your opinion of the series. Definitely check out the other items in this series with the links at the top of this post, and share your thoughts on all of them in the comments.