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By Vicky Mayfield, July 2007.
Vicky Mayfield started teaching as a teaching assistant in 1981 and went on to teach both in Junior High school and at the college level including math methods for teachers. She has received Masters degrees in Math and in Math Education. She is currently an instructor for the Wyoming Community College system.
In which classes are riddles appropriate?
So far all classes and levels that I've taught have enjoyed riddles.
The class I put the riddles up in these days is a study-hall get help type of class. It's a good way, in my opinion, to start off each class period.
When should riddles be used?
I put up a new riddle every day. If the student solves the riddle, they get a piece of chocolate - think Hershey's miniatures - (post holiday sales are a great time to refill the bag). Occasionally they'll ask to solve another riddle for a second piece of chocolate - I limit it to two.
What kinds of riddles do the kids like best?
Although there's no specific kind of riddle, they like them to not be too hard, so if the references are too obscure, they don't like that very much.
I've found that the students generally improve at the riddles if they care enough to pay any attention to them. I tend to put up easier to middle level difficulty (at least they way I rank them) because I want it to be a positive experience for the most part. There are some kids who never try to solve them. Some start off saying "I'm terrible at riddles." And then once they solve one they start to gain more confidence and stop saying that.