Sunday, May 13, 2012


I love Sudoku! In fact you could say I am addicted to Sudoku.   When the Globe and Mail arrives at my house every day I make sure to get to it first to get my hands on the Sudoku puzzles.

Where does this math game come from? How long has it been around? I have been an avid fan for many years, but have wondered where this addicting game originated? I decided to do some research.

As it turns out, Sudoku is the name the world has come to know of this puzzle in its present form. The puzzle game’s true beginning is not Japanese despite how it sounds.   Depending on how rigid you define what really constitutes a Sudoku puzzle, you can in fact trace its evolution through a long string of paper and pencil puzzles in history. The first shape of Sudoku can be seen from the magic squares appearing in China around 1000 BC or earlier if you go along this route.
As we know it today, Sudoku has a much more recent history.  Although its roots may be from China, the name Sudoku originated from Japan. It is made up of two Japanese words Su’ meaning digit or number and Doku’ meaning single or alone. So in English, Sudoku means "single digit," or "a number by itself."   Who knew?
In the late 19th century, number puzzles based on the magic squares started to appear in French newspapers. Such weekly puzzles became a feature of the French newspapers until about the time of the First World War.
According to the prestigious and ubiquitous source “Google” The first recognizable Sudoku puzzle was published in May 1979 by Dell Magazines in their Dell Pencil Puzzles and Word Games known as "Number Place" in those days. The game was thought to be designed by Howards Garns. Garns was a retired American architect and a freelance puzzle creator born in Indiana. Number Place became popular in the mid-1980s in Japan after being picked up and renamed Sudoku by the Japanese Nikoli company. Then in 2005, Sudoku became an international hit after The Times of London started printing it in November 2004. Howards Garns, the inventor who made the first modern Sudoku, however didn't live to see the day as he died in October 1989 at the age of 84.
Today, Sudoku appears in many daily newspapers worldwide, there are also numerous websites that allow the game to play at varying levels of difficulty. The appeal of Sudoku can be attributed to both its exceptionally simple rules for beginners and various sophisticated techniques to sustain the interests of the more experienced players.
Could Sudoku be incorporated into the Classroom…Why not?
In a world where children are spending more and more time watching mindless television and/or playing video games all the time why not have them learn to think critically in the classroom? It just might transfer to outside the classroom as well. With millions and millions of Sudoku puzzles available at different difficulty levels students could become hooked no matter how old they are. In fact, one of the beautiful features of Sudoku is that it can be easily adapted to varying degrees of difficulty from grade 1 to University level.  To me it is a no brainer to use this to teach arithmetic, strategy, and persistence. 
Possible ways of integrating Sudoku in your classroom:

  • As a whole class activity, with a white board or projector at the front of the class
  • As a time filler for odd moments during the day
  • As a “reward” when a child finishes work early
  • At the beginning of the day, placed on the desk for children to do when they come into the classroom and settle down
  • As a weekend activity or fun homework 
  • As a daily challenge
Research states that, “children as young as 5 years old can enjoy the puzzles while at the same time developing their logical thinking, extending their concentration, and building their confidence.” The educational role of Sudoku has been confirmed in a variety of academic studies in recent literature.

There is just one caveat for Sudoku though “May be habit forming,” should be included in Sudoku puzzles, but as habits go this would be a good one to have.


Links to puzzles:


  1. Another great game of this type that is being touted to have similar learning attributes is KenKen. ( ) In the same design as Soduku, KenKen is a game of numbers in several boxes. The operation is given as well as the answer in each box and the numbers must be the same across the lines horizontally, diagonally and vertically. Equally as challenging. As the box gets bigger the harder the game becomes! A great way to practice mathematical basics, speed and memory skills. It was developed in 2004 by a Japanese mathematics instructor Tetsuya Miyamoto. It is gaining popularity and can now be found in many newspapers daily.

  2. KenKen, Sudoku, Kakuro ( - I've already mentioned this game in a discussion at some point) are all very similar games but with different problem solving attributes.

    Christine, thanks for your history from Sudoku, and Liam for your explanation of KenKen. I think any one of these examples here are great little games for students to learn strategies. I'm addicted to Sudoku myself - I have it on my phone and whenever I have a spare moment or two, I try to play a game or two, and get my "average play time" lower and lower! I've also tried harder levels as I get more confident with my skills. When I started playing 4 or 5 years ago, I was awful, and over time I have developed skills and techniques on how to solve it quicker. I like your idea Christine of setting it out as something for students to do when they arrive in class as a daily challenge (not to mention to get them in the mindset of math). Perhaps you could stop them before everyone is done, as some may be slower than others, but over time you hopefully will find that the students will get faster. I can also see it being something that students would feel inclined to help each other out with techniques.

    When I go to my cottage in the summer I tend to buy a book for Sudoku, and my grandmother was intrigued with the game. She asked me to teach her, so I gave her a long lesson and sat there and played with her. She had a hard time grasping the concept, and over a matter of 3 visits to the cottage, I had to re-explain the rules and how it works. Now, my grandmother is a crossword girl, she does it every day and is amazing at it. But she just couldn't grasp the mathematics of the same type of puzzle. Although this is not a success story, I know if she had kept at it, she would have been able to remember, but in her older age she just couldn't do it.

    I think with a teacher's enthusiasm, and understanding of the puzzle, students would have fun. Maybe it would be neat to spend one week on sudoku, one week on KenKen, and one week on Kakuro, and whatever other possible math game there is. Students will enjoy the change in games, and the change in approach to the games as they change the techniques for answering them.

    Thanks for sharing everyone!

  3. Taking a common place item or thing and talking about it in detail or explaining how it can be used in a class is a great way to use a blog post.

  4. Don't forget to tag your posts

  5. I've actually used Sudoku as an icebreaker for some of the students I tutor. We have a wooden Sudoku board with a frame with slots. It comes with white squares of paper that fit under the frame and the numbers appear in the slots they need to (and the ones you need to figure out remain blank spaces). Then there are wooden number tiles that you use to fill in the spaces. I really like this setup because you don't waste any paper (other than reusing the ones with the puzzles printed on them) and you can move around your numbers without worrying about erasing or crossing out your numbers. I had a grade 3 student doing these willingly and a grade 1 student was flying through the "easy" levels by the end of last summer. I would definitely have Sudoku (and similar thinking puzzles) available for students to do if they complete work early or would like an extra challenge.

  6. I have used the kenken puzzels before as extra bonus/games at the end of class or a a fun break I like them a little better (for high school students) becasue they require you to use the basic math skills along with the number patterns. All of these activities are a great way to keep your mind engaged. The other one that I was playing a lot was Train your brain (it was a game for the DS). You could break the class up into groups and have a weekly quiz of basic math skills to keep the students on their toes. Don't forget that there has been a lot of studies recently that has shown that people who do puzzel games are less likely to develope alzheimer's disease.

  7. I think Sudoku is a great puzzle game to use in the classroom. Its a fun, logical puzzle which is perfect for after tests or for students who finish their homework early.

    Challenging your brain to learn news things is a great method to keep our minds healthy and active.

    Below I have posted one of my fav logic puzzles, remember to change the inappropriate beverages to something else like root beer, and to change the smokes to maybe types of candy.

    A Brain Teaser

    Albert Einstein once posed a brain teaser that he predicted only 2% of the worlds population would be able to solve.

    1. There are 5 houses in 5 different colours.
    2. In each house lives a person with a different nationality.
    3. These 5 owners drink a certain beverage, smoke a certain brand of cigarette and keep a certain pet.
    4. No owners have the same pet, brand of cigaratte, or drink.

    1. The Brit lives in a red house
    2. The Swede keeps a dog
    3. The Dane drinks tea
    4. The green house is on the left of the white house.
    5. The green house owner drinks coffee.
    6. The person who smokes Pall Mall keeps birds.
    7. The owner of the yellow house smokes Dunhill.
    8. The man living in the house right in the center drinks milk
    9. The Norwegian lives in the first house.
    10. The man who smokes Blend lives next to the one who keeps cats
    11. The man who keeps horses lives next to the man who smokes Dunhill
    12. The owner who smokes Camel drinks beer
    13. The German smokes Marlborough.
    14. The Norwegian lives next to the blue house
    15. The man who smokes Blend has a neighbour who drinks water.

    The question is, who keeps the fish?

    It's a fun one, give it a try!!