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# Teaching math through KenKen

KenKen is a new math puzzle, and unlike Sudoku (very similar aesthetically), it employs arithmetic in addition to logic. KenKen was originally created by a Japanese math teacher, who needed a new way of engaging his students.

I have been working to promote the game, mostly to other teachers. KenKen.com has a great teacher program, which provides weekly puzzles to teachers for free throughout the academic year. There has been over 8,000 teachers signed up for this program.

I wonder if any of you have heard of KenKen, and if so, what kind of uses have you found it good for? It is an amazing way of keeping kids engaged.

Here is a picture of a 4x4 KenKen puzzle:

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### Replies to This Discussion

I just wanted to ask what is the new method in the order of operation?
Quite an interesting puzzle. Watch this video.
I like these puzzles a lot; a challenge but still manageable. Unfortunately they are blocked by our education department's filter for all students. They are accessible to staff, so I might try one as a whole class activity on the smartboard. Thanks for the idea!
Jake,

I have been also using this and it has great potential for learning mathematics. I have two ideas that can make it even more powerful and useful for teachers:

1. Do not Limit it to just consecutive numbers from 1..n but open it up to any numbers? This way students will learn more about numbers. It is much richer.

2. Show teachers and students how to create their own puzzles. This can be very empowering

I suggest we explore this further. I think that these kinds of puzzles can be very very useful for kids to learn mathematics

--Dani
My school uses Moodle for its course management system, and I have embedded a Ken Ken widget in all of my class' Moodle pages. My students really enjoy solving them. You can get the widget here (along with lots of other free logic puzzles): http://www.conceptispuzzles.com/index.aspx?uri=info/doc/216
They call it "Calcudoku" instead of Ken Ken, though.
Thanks for the idea, we also use moodle and I now have a Calcudoko sitting on yr 8's page!
I like KenKen and have used the simplest puzzles as a starter in some very low ability Y8 classes and built up to some more difficult puzzles for the most able in Y7. I originally scanned images from The Time KenKen (Book 1) and viewed them from my pen dfrive via the IWB - annotating over them. I have used a lot of the visual, logic and number puzzles from The Times Japanese Logic Puzzles (Hashi, Hitori, Mosaic(I've not used Mosaic) and Slitherlink) with Y7 & 8 as starters with the aim of trying to get my unsettled and unengaged classes to settle down and start to appreciate the great feeling you get from solving a problem that didn't require them to work mechanically through some method that they have been taught to follow. Also I hoped, over time, to improve their ability to concentrate and persevere for more than a few seconds! Over a period of 8-12 weeks using them as starters (this was a very seriously disengaged class) they came to expect the types of puzzles I found at:-
http://www.nikoli.com and
http://www.nikoli.co.jp/en/puzzles/
In particular, I remember on 2 occassions how very disappointed they were when I didn't use them as starters. The UK national curriculum does include some specific wording about encouraging different types of non-numerical problem solving and while I have some reservations about giving time to this type of activity (I personally enjoy them and think it opens up the minds of some students so that they start thinking in a logical(or sometimes logic defying), strategic and experimental or even playful way.) I'd be very interested to hear the sum of your views on the use of this type of puzzle/activity - I think they introduce a bit of variety into my students maths diet. Personally I've never really taken to Sudoku and hence I've not tried to use them in the classroom although I know others do (but no-one I know personally)
Neil,
I agree with you re: Sudoku. I guess it's because the numbers themselves are irrelevant. The puzzle can be played with any 9 symbols you choose. I think Ken Ken/Calcudoku is a much more valuable use of students' time.

Neil T said:
Personally I've never really taken to Sudoku and hence I've not tried to use them in the classroom although I know others do (but no-one I know personally)

I teach students who are very weak at Math and have no feeling for numbers. for example they may know mechanically that 3*7=21 but have no sense "what 21 is" and also they do not know that 21=3*7 (sounds strange but is true). Thus a puzzle like:

could be very useful.

--Dani

Neil T said:
I like KenKen and have used the simplest puzzles as a starter in some very low ability Y8 classes and built up to some more difficult puzzles for the most able in Y7. I originally scanned images from The Time KenKen (Book 1) and viewed them from my pen dfrive via the IWB - annotating over them. I have used a lot of the visual, logic and number puzzles from The Times Japanese Logic Puzzles (Hashi, Hitori, Mosaic(I've not used Mosaic) and Slitherlink) with Y7 & 8 as starters with the aim of trying to get my unsettled and unengaged classes to settle down and start to appreciate the great feeling you get from solving a problem that didn't require them to work mechanically through some method that they have been taught to follow. Also I hoped, over time, to improve their ability to concentrate and persevere for more than a few seconds! Over a period of 8-12 weeks using them as starters (this was a very seriously disengaged class) they came to expect the types of puzzles I found at:-
http://www.nikoli.com and
http://www.nikoli.co.jp/en/puzzles/
In particular, I remember on 2 occassions how very disappointed they were when I didn't use them as starters. The UK national curriculum does include some specific wording about encouraging different types of non-numerical problem solving and while I have some reservations about giving time to this type of activity (I personally enjoy them and think it opens up the minds of some students so that they start thinking in a logical(or sometimes logic defying), strategic and experimental or even playful way.) I'd be very interested to hear the sum of your views on the use of this type of puzzle/activity - I think they introduce a bit of variety into my students maths diet. Personally I've never really taken to Sudoku and hence I've not tried to use them in the classroom although I know others do (but no-one I know personally)
I have been using KenKen since last year as extra credit. The kids love them but they have not mastered anything more than a 4x4 (neither have I). They also use the KenKen app on their touch and phone which is not blocked in class.