For those people who are not familiar with Sudoku, I will provide a very brief overview of the puzzle. The standard Sudoku puzzle (see example on right) is a 9 x 9 grid that consists of nine rows that are nine cells long, nine columns that are nine cells tall, and nine 3 x 3 boxes that contain nine cells. Many people believe that solving a standard 9 x 9 Sudoku puzzle requires super-human mathematical and spatial skills. The myth is simply not true. As I described in the post titled “Tangrams: Torture or Teacher?” I am clearly not a spatial genius. Math and spatial skills are not required to solve a standard Sudoku puzzle. You can make the standard puzzles more complicated by rotating them and looking at the rotated puzzles in a mirror, but rotations, interpreting mirror images, and math are not required to solve the standard 9 x 9 Sudoku puzzle.
The object of the puzzle is to use the clues in cells with numbers to place numbers in empty cells without violating the rules of Sudoku.
The rules are very straightforward: the numbers 1 through 9 can appear only once in a row, column, and box. Some Sudoku puzzles also include the rule that the numbers 1 through 9 appear only once in a diagonal.
Torture or Teacher
I’ll admit that the puzzle looks impossible to solve. I’ll also admit that even though the solution does not require mathematic or special skills, there is something about the puzzle that is intimidating. However, you can solve the puzzle by using the following strategy:
- Spend a few minutes looking for solutions then do something else for a while.
- Pay attention to what you are doing. Multitasking is not the answer.
- Read and reread the rules if you need to.
- Try to solve 1s, then 2s, then 3s . . . then 9s for each row, column, and box.
- When you finish the previous step, repeat the process until all cells contain numbers that do not violate the rules.
The initial goal is to simply exercise your brain rather than solve the entire puzzle. As your brain rebuilds itself, you will do more in less time — this is true for all aspects of your life not just puzzle solving. Eventually, you will be ready for puzzles that are more challenging.
I believe Sudoku is a Teacher even though it looks like Torture. By attempting to solve a puzzle you are practicing the following skills:
- Comprehension of instructions
- Attention to detail
- Visual memory
- Time management
Caution: Sudoku is only for people who want cognitive therapy to be fun.
What perceived obstacles prevent you from trying to solve Sudoku puzzles? Could you benefit from attempting to solve Sudoku puzzles? How are puzzles similar to your everyday challenges? What tools do you prefer when you engage in cognitive exercises? What challenges are you trying to overcome?
Thanks to Hans Boldt for sharing the puzzle.