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Can Sudoku Help Students With Math?
Sudoku is a number puzzle game that, at first glance, should be ideal for children to practice their math skills. Yes and no. Although students manipulate numbers to solve the puzzle, they do not have to add, subtract, multiply or divide any of these numbers. So how does playing Sudoku help math?
First, math is more than arithmetic skills. Many of the skills needed to be successful in math go beyond arithmetic, and sometimes these skills aren’t practiced enough at school or at home. Some of these skills are used when playing Sudoku. We’ll take a look.
Here are some of the skills Sudoku can help you with:
Sorting. The Sudoku challenge is to arrange the numbers 1 through 9 on each row and column of the grid, as well as those same numbers in smaller 3 x 3 grids inside the larger grid. No number can appear more than once along a row, column, or 3 x 3 grid. While completing the puzzle, a student must sort, arrange, and rearrange these numbers. It requires a level of organization and focus that has benefits beyond math.
Visualization. While new Sudoku players will write, erase, and rewrite numbers as they solve the puzzle, the more skilled player will be able to visualize an arrangement of numbers before writing anything down. Visualization is such an important math skill. Whether visualizing a geometric transformation or the next step in solving an equation, this skill, if underestimated, will provide students with great confidence in problem solving. Visualization is a higher order thinking skill.
Problem solving. A student completing a Sudoku puzzle has solved a fairly complex problem. The average Sudoku puzzle is much more complex than a typical word problem in arithmetic, algebra, or geometry. Although students may not believe it, most word problems focus on specific skills. Deciphering the text to understand the mathematical concept is the same process as solving a puzzle. Plus, Sudoku encourages students to use these math problem-solving strategies: guess and test, find a pattern, solve a simpler problem, and use logical reasoning. Use Sudoku to improve those problem-solving skills without too much of a stake.
By far the most important aspect of playing Sudoku is that students will have fun with numbers. This goes a long way in eliminating math anxiety or preventing it from taking hold. Developing a facility with numbers is a great stepping stone to working with abstract concepts like variables and equations.
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