Wow… I did my first Sudoku puzzle on the airplane yesterday (see photo below).  This was an interesting test of my creative and critical problem solving capacity, and my ability to learn from my mistakes.

I took notes on my process in trying to solve this puzzle.  The first thing I did was kind of go at it haphazardly. There was no real method, but I just tried to solve what some individual squares could be based on what they could definitely not be.  I tried to do this on the easy puzzle (the one on the left) before realizing that this was definitely not a good tactic.  I lost sight of why I chose certain numbers, and I tried to solve some of the individual boxes first (as a whole box) before really considering that in solving an individual box I might be incorrect when it comes to the whole puzzle.  It was like my critical problem-solving skills were undermining my creative skills, or my ability to see the whole puzzle as important and dependent on the little parts.

Anyway, I gave up on the easy puzzle (or “gentle” as it is called in the magazine) because I got so far into it and I knew I was wrong, and I got frustrated at the fact that I would have to erase it all and start over.  I probably should have done that, but this was also at around the time in my flight (I was on a plane) when my boyfriend asked me, “Do you want a tip?”  “No!” I replied.  I wanted to figure it out on my own, despite the fact that any good learner should take advice or help from others. I also saw him solving a Sudoku in his classroom once, and he had written out the whole puzzle on his whiteboard and written all possible numbers for every square within that square.  I guess I sort of had my hint already.

After giving up on the first puzzle I moved onto the “moderate” puzzle.  This was definitely challenging, but this time I took the whole puzzle into account.  I filled in every individual square with all the possible numbers that this square could be based on the printed numbers that the puzzle gave me (for that row, column, and box).  I tried not to take any shortcuts, and to suspend my judgment on what a particular number might be until I was done with this process.  I did a pretty good job of this, and then looked at whole rows in order to see if there were any squares with numbers that did not appear anywhere else in that row or column.  Unfortunately, when I thought I saw an answer I occasionally filled it in before completing this methodical process for the whole puzzle.  Big mistake, I got within 2 squares of correctly completing the puzzle!  Ughhh!  How frustrating, but it makes me understand that I need to be more patient with problem-solving, and need to use that creative thinking to really avoid making judgments or deciding on solutions until I have exhausted all options.

This was definitely a good exercise in that it reminded me of how frustrating school can be for some students.  I had no trouble with the mostly critical thinking that school demanded of me.  However, many creative thinkers probably hated and got equally as frustrated with critical thinking demands (or lower order thinking demands) in school when it takes them a little bit more time to completely think through a problem.   For instance, it took me over 3 hours to try to solve these problems and I did not even end up getting the answer!  It must be so difficult for creative thinkers in classrooms whose teachers privilege critical thinking!

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