After writing my post yesterday, I did some reading and found this article from The Times Online about the creator of the KENKEN puzzles. He has some very interesting ideas about math and education in general.
Mr. Myamoto offers special math classes on weekends, and parents flock to him for a chance to have their children attend. In these classes, children solve the puzzles with minimal guidance. They are encouraged to work on their own, using trial and error, which differs greatly from fact memorization, a common theme in education around the world.
Mr Miyamoto’s theory is that the brain – of a child or adult – is failed by conventional teaching. By concentrating on a “third way” of problem-solving, he believes that the mind becomes a more potent tool for dealing with the rest of life, from main-stream education to the challenges of the workplace.
Last night I introduced my own children to KENKEN. Together, they solved a 4X4 and a 5×5 puzzle. Tonight, they want to try the next size. They are working on their math without any reminder to please finish their homework. I agree with Mr. Myamoto who says, the puzzle “draws out the primal, self-starting learning instinct of human beings.”