Brain Games, Brain Teasers and Riddles

Did you know that January is International Brain Teaser Month? I have always used brainteasers in my classroom. They can engage various learners despite ability or age and encourage students to think in different ways, divergently and become more proficient in seeing patterns in words, shapes and numbers. For many, it is also calming, mindful and a strategy to decompress. 

Brain Teasers are a form of puzzle that requires different thinking types depending on the task and sometimes a requirement to think in an unconventional way to solve a problem. 

“Brain teasers are puzzles, riddles, math problems, situations and more that require thought to solve. Often, brain teasers can be unconventional in ways and can have the simplest of answers. Other times brain teasers can stump the thinker and require lateral thinking.”,that%20require%20thought%20to%20solve

Interestingly, there is a lot of conflicting research about whether partaking in brain teasers and brain-based games impact learning and intelligence. A recent study from Western University, London, ON calls into question the benefit of cognitive training to improve general cognitive functioning ability to transfer the skills learned through the Brain Games to other areas of life. On the other hand, a recent study by Stephanie Jones and her team at the Harvard Graduate School of Education is building a new approach to SEL that focuses on the use of Brain Games, specifically on simple strategies adapted to many settings.

In my role as a teacher and parent, I use brain games for a variety of purposes and continue to look for research and evidence that uses a wide variety of criteria when determining any connection to learning and intelligence, especially those relating to soft skills such as problem-solving, creativity, divergent thinking, collaboration, building confidence, etc.  Consider this: 

  • Enjoyment and engagement
  • Explicit opportunity for collaboration and discussion
  • Inspiration to look at problems, ideas and numbers in different ways
  • A break and way to de-stress, calm down the brain
  • A fun challenge
  • Understand different types of learning (a great way to discuss the different kinds of thinking.
  • Social-Emotional Learning

“Brain Games build three main competencies, which the team calls “brain powers”: focus, remember, and stop and think. To maximize learning during play, teachers can be intentional and explicit about the building’s SEL skills. They can talk to students about the brainpower needed to play each game and about strategies for using that power. After the game, they can talk about what happened, “building metacognition and a shared vocabulary around the skills they are learning,” Jones says. And through a set of debriefing questions, “teachers and students can think together about how to use these skills at other times of day, connecting ‘brain powers’ to work ethic in the classroom, teamwork and relationships, and successful behaviour in school and beyond.” 

I am not the creator of these games but have compiled them into a PPT format crediting all sources. This format allows folks to grab a slide or two and add it to the daily teaching in synchronous or asynchronous classroom environments. Reach out should the link or any of the sources not work out. This is a work in progress, and I’m sharing because we are all better when we share. 

  1. Slides of Number Based Games: Daily Brain Teasers Slides.pptx
  2. Slides of Language-Based Games and Activities: Daily WORDS and WORD PUZZLES Jan 2020 public.pptx
  3. Compilation of Game Templates for Breakout Rooms Activity
  4. Sudoku- Great for partner activity in Breakout rooms: 




Stojanoski B, Lyons KM, Pearce AAA, Owen AM. Targeted training: Converging evidence against the transferable benefits of online brain training on cognitive function. Neuropsychologia. 2018 Aug;117:541-550. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2018.07.013. Epub 2018 Jul 25. PMID: 30009838.