Logic groups: having students in groups of three work on 5–10 minute logic puzzles.
Talks from Tapestry Workshops
|Luciano, Robert||Logic groups||Various 2009–2015||2014 Handout (zip)
Maps, pulleys, and switches (pdf)
Coins + Balance (doc) and solution (doc) (in .zip above)
Toothpicks (doc) (in .zip above)
House of Cards (doc) (in .zip above)
21 pigs (doc) (in .zip above)
crossing river with gold (doc) (in .zip above)
ten cards (doc) (in .zip above)
- The book Crossing the River with Dogs: Problem Solving for College Students by Ken Johnson, Ted Herr, and Judy Kysh is a collection of logic problems.
- The Impossible Quiz (html)
- The cards from [https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/1923/mindtrap] (a board game) contain many hundreds of logic problems.
- Search “Logic Problems” or “River Crossing Problems” on your favorite search engine
- The Japanese River Crossing is worded to suggest dysfunctional social dynamics, but has been mentioned several times in workshops.
- Project Euler, a site full of problems.
- The Room Activity from the Exploring Computer Science curriculum.
- Wolf, Goat, Boat and Cabbage river crossing
- Frog river crossing
- Robert Luciano, “Curriculum in Action” CSTA Voice, Vol 5 No 6 (Jan 2010), available on page 6 of this pdf.
Results of Brainstorming Sessions
- Form groups of 3 by having students sort themselves (by birthday, home town, weight of heaviest pet, hair length, …) (non-verbal is more personal) and then picking adjacent people.
- Have students spend time filling in a clock with “appointments” with other students; later tell them “meet with your 2 o'clock appointment.”
- Never tell them the answer, but do talk through solutions they create.
- When students already know a logic problem, good! Praise their prior knowledge. They are either lucky or studying outside of class.
- Have the logic problem on the board before class begins so students have an incentive to arrive early.
Robert Luciano runs a logic group every one of his 90-minute classes. I am unaware of people who do it more often; keeping it frequent is suggested.
When students ask questions, listen politely. If the question is a valid lack of clarity in the problem, clarify and change the write-up for next time; otherwise say “I am not part of your group” and walk away. It might help to tell them not answering is a compliment, telling how much you trust them to be able to solve on their own.
One consequence of logic groups is an increase in students asking one another questions. This is generally good, but watch out for students that ask questions before they start working. Call those students aside and tell them “I noticed you were having a little trouble getting started, I just want to make sure you are off to a good start.”
There is no need to explicitly tie logic problems to programming; the goal is to teach collaboration and problem solving skills, the students will transfer those skills themselves.
It can be good to add some points to logic problems; Mr Luciano keeps scores for logic problems separate from the rest of the grade, and then gives 1 point on the average to the group with the highest logic score and half a point to the second-place group. Other teachers have shared the idea of giving no credit for working the problems, but giving credit for providing a problem the teacher can use.
It can be helpful to place minorities as the majority in their logic group.
Leave the groups the same long enough for them to become a team. Switch them often enough they can learn from other students' solving practices.