Jerry Martin: The perfect homeschooling tool
“Education is not the learning of facts. It’s rather the training of the mind to think.” — Albert Einstein
Most homeschooling parents have trouble keeping their very active children involved in instructional activities. Sudoku puzzles help solve this problem with a fun, highly educational game.
Sudoku puzzles can be solved by anyone who can count to nine, and it works with every language equally well. Sudoku appeals to both boys and girls, who are equal in their abilities to learn and solve these puzzles. It’s also cheap and practical, travels well, takes little space, can be done indoors or outdoors, day or night, and needs only a pencil and a flat place to write. Sudoku puzzles have been designed with a very wide variety of difficulty, from beginning puzzles for first graders, through a range of intermediate puzzles to extremely difficult puzzles requiring recognition of obscure patterns with names like Sashimi X-wing, Bug and Hidden Triple. Beginning books have hundreds of puzzles and are affordable.
However, it can also be done on a computer. My favorite web site is Enjoy Sudoku, which delivers 14 new puzzles everyday for free and has several very helpful learning additions that teach more advanced tactics and patterns. It’s a great teacher.
I have been teaching Sudoku in our local elementary and middle schools for six years. Once familiar with the process, these children enjoy this mental challenge which, when done solo, pits one human against a non-human opponent, the puzzle. This contest removes the emotion that is common in most competitions between two humans or two teams of humans. Losing to a puzzle is emotionally easier than losing to your sibling. It’s also more accessible, since you don’t need anyone else for this competition. And solving a puzzle successfully brings healthy feelings of strength and independence.
Through repetition, about 50 times each puzzle, Sudoku trains deductive reasoning skills necessary to solve all problems. With Sudoku we learn to manage information by organizing it logically.
Information is not tangible, not material that can be seen or touched. Information is much more difficult to organize than clothing in closets or tools in a workshop. Sudoku simplifies information by symbolizing it in the form of numbers (one through nine). The puzzle requires a process that allows us to control and organize information.
Thinking skills trained by Sudoku:
appreciating the need for total accuracy, which equates with truth; objectivity works, subjectivity doesn’t;
developing the recognition of necessary relevant information which is surrounded by unnecessary irrelevant information;
appreciating the necessity to forestall a conclusion until all necessary information is available;
learning to recognize a variety of patterns that produce answers or eliminate false solutions.
In addition to training systematic deductive problem solving using logical processes, Sudoku develops concentration, self-confidence and self-responsibility — three major components of self-esteem.
Siblings and parents can form teams to collaborate against the puzzle, bringing families together to defeat an outside opponent. Solving on teams develops important social skills such as communication, cooperation and leadership. And solving puzzles together can be a wonderful bonding opportunity between generations.
Sometimes, when teaching a new activity to a child, the parent develops a fond penchant for the activity. This happens with Sudoku. Parents can use it alone as a relaxing escape from the constant worry and stress produced by COVID-19 and raising children. It’s also a powerful diversion from boredom, supplying evidence of our remaining mental acuity. Dementia hasn’t set in (yet).
Very few schools or teachers are aware of the value and attraction of Sudoku puzzles. In my experience here, only one in a school of 25 teachers does Sudoku with her class. So the home is the most likely place that Sudoku will be introduced and learned.
Sudoku is a beneficial game that can be carried into adulthood, providing a fascinating mental challenge that rewards with pleasure and satisfaction for many years.
A quote from ancient Roman poet Virgil shows why learning logic early is important for maximal human development: “As the twig is bent the tree inclines.” Learn more about local Sudoku activities at http://www.sudokuasateachingtool.org.
Jerry Martin lives in Grass Valley.
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