Grass Valley resident honored with Mensa Creativity Award: Recognized for his creative application of Sudoku as a professional teaching tool | TheUnion.com

Grass Valley resident honored with Mensa Creativity Award: Recognized for his creative application of Sudoku as a professional teaching tool

Submitted to The Union

ARLINGTON, TX. — Jerry Martin of Grass Valley believes Sudoku, a puzzle pastime enjoyed by millions, can teach young students how to think, in addition to traditional school subjects, which teach what to think.

Sparking critical thinking and logical reasoning using these exercises isn't the solitary goal of Martin's work, though. With community support, and through his nonprofit's sponsorship of an annual children's team sudoku tournament, he aims to help elementary-age students develop the interpersonal intelligence gained through empathetic communication and teamwork.

"I'm trying to persuade educators to recognize Sukoku's value, starting here in my hometown and eventually spreading to many other school districts," he said. The excitement and concentration he saw in competitor's faces, Martin noted, made him realize just how much value the brain teaser could bring to an educational setting.

First published in 1979 by Dell Pencil Puzzles, under the name Number Place, modern Sudoku is thought to have been designed by 74-year-old retired architect Howard Garns, though the variations of the puzzle can be found in 19th century French newspapers.

"Unlike most school subjects, which teach what to think, Sudoku teaches how to think," Martin said. "This makes it special and unique. I believe Sudoku is a powerful, practical and appealing tool for impacting cognitive evolution."

Martin said he plans to continue working with educators to introduce the number puzzle into as many classrooms as he can.

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Mensa presents annually its Copper Black Award for Creative Achievement — not for the creativity of a single person, but for a specific creative achievement that has been demonstrated to be of practical value, or an innovation that has been implemented, at least in part, to the advantage of persons other than the nominee.

Martin said he's elated about winning the award, but it's the work that renews his spirit.

"I have found a mission that is extremely important, giving my remaining life a fulfilling purpose, a direction that can eventually make a difference," he said. "Six or more years ago I thought this idea was wacky, unrealistic woo-woo. Not now."

American Mensa is an organization open to anyone who scores in the top 2 percent on an accepted, standardized intelligence test. Mensa has more than 50,000 members in the United States and more than 130,000 members globally. For more information about American Mensa, visit americanmensa.org or call 817-607-0060.