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Grandparent Grandchild Connection: Fun With Forgotten Educational Material

John is a retired math teacher who is involved in many activities. He writes, builds model ships, gardens, reads, and prospects for gold.

A 10 year-old girl.

A 10 year-old girl.

A Grandparent's Less Than Scientific Pattern Recognition Psychology at Play


Many parents send their children to school, at the same time interacting with them at an educational level at home. I recall playing games and pointing things out, reading colorfully illustrated books and talking about the pictures, and asking questions I hoped would get them thinking critically. I was able to help them with their homework when something just wasn't getting any clearer. Now that I have grandchildren, it's become ever so clear that I can use materials with them that I had created for my students.

TEACHERS: Get Out Those Boxed Activities!

A new school year filled with ads on TV about back to school supplies reminded me of the days bringing up my children. My kids wanted me to do the same activities with their kids that I had done with them. While babysitting my grandchildren, I realized that materials I had spent countless hours preparing for my students could be adapted to informal instructional time with the grandchildren. Little brain teasers, regardless of their nature can fit in with walks to the park, storytelling, snack time, after-school discussions, and, of course, TV and cartoons. In this way, a positive learning environment can be established that is relaxing and an aid in future learning.

Pearls I Found in the Attic

Recently rummaging through boxes from the 1970's through the 1990's, I found things I had created for my students in order to pleasurably fill small amounts of time that would have otherwise been wasted. These items also focused on pattern recognition, something I felt was very important in the digital age. The following activities are probably better suited for grades 6-8, but if you were an early childhood educator, share with the grandchildren.

Checkerboard Puzzles

Because of the checkerboard history, it has become associated with flags at auto races, head gear, and most of all, checkers, chess, and draughts. Alternating red and black square pieces present an interesting jigsaw puzzle. Are there patterns to decipher here?

Solutions to all the puzzles are at the end of the hub.

The eleven pieces on this page, when reassembled, form a 9X9 checkerboard. Cut them out. See if you can make the checkerboard.

A Checkerboard Puzzle for You


Final Checkerboard Pattern

The eleven pieces should fit together like this.


You have all seen UPC (universal price code) symbols on items at the grocery store. These symbols and their uses are of interest in and of themselves. But I have some "invented" UPC symbols for the sake of a good puzzle. Let's see if you can figure out a pattern and decode the final "UPC" symbol.


Executive Functions

This puzzle exercises your executive functions of your frontal lobes. Using your pattern recognition, hypothesis testing, and logic, you expand your experience and increase your likelihood of recalling a similar pattern in a new formulation.

Executive functions (also known as cognitive control and supervisory attentional system) are a set of cognitive processes – including attentional control, inhibitory control, working memory, and cognitive flexibility, as well as reasoning, problem solving, and planning – that are necessary for the cognitive control of behavior: selecting and successfully monitoring behaviors that facilitate the attainment of chosen goals. Executive functions gradually develop and change across the lifespan of an individual and can be improved at any time over the course of a person's life. Similarly, these cognitive processes can be adversely affected by a variety of events which affect an individual. - Wikipedia

How executive function is important:

Paying attention
Managing time
Changing focus
Planning and organizing
Not saying or doing the wrong thing
Remembering detail
Doing things based on experience

The following pattern is a 4X4 array. What design should go in the empty square? Draw it.

Pattern recognition puzzle
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Word Patterns - Cognitive Development

Fill each blank with a word that varies by one letter from the one preceding it. Do so in a way that leaves the word at the end.












Cognitive Development

"Psychologists have determined that a child’s brain development is influenced significantly when a child acts on or manipulates the world around him or her. Puzzles provide that key opportunity. Children learn to work directly with their environment and change its shape and appearance when they work with puzzles."

Hand-eye coordination
Fine Motor Skills
Gross Motor Skills
Problem Solving
Shape Recognition
Setting Small Goals

Codeword Puzzles

Codewords are like crossword puzzles. Each letter of the alphabet is represented by a number. The same number is used for the same letter through the whole puzzle.


Vera Neet's test was returned in mathematics class. Next to an error she had made in a problem, her teacher, Anne Take, had placed a coded message. Can you decipher the message? Hint: Each number stands for a letter in the alphabet. Try to discover the pattern for assigning the numbers to letters. Hint: U is 4, F is 8
Coded Message:



I believe that one of the most valuable gifts we can give to children is an appreciation of patterns. The whole world is full of them. Today we know that even what we referred to as "chaos", which seems to mean without pattern, has a pattern. A whole field of mathematics today is called chaos theory.

Since reading, math, music, and so much more comes down to patterning, using puzzles to exercise the brain in detecting similarities and differences cannot but help youngsters. My kids always loved to do jigsaw puzzles time and time again. They learn to value problem solving. Anything that puzzles can be of value.

I cannot tell you definitively why it helps, but I spent 23 years teaching grades 6 - 12, and correlation between success in school and the ability to pattern was amazing. Those kids who were involved in music excelled at reading and math. Children whose parents worked with them and encouraged pattern recognition when they were small seemed to find academics easier. And it doesn't take a lot of involvement. My granddaughter just turned 3. Her parents strung a line of solid color pennants in the living room to celebrate the auspicious occasion. I asked her what they looked like. She said, "Pizza!" I replied, "Those are pennants - like flags." She repeated the word pennant three times. Now she tells everyone they are pennants that look like pizza slices. Just pointing these things out to a child and asking them what they think or what it reminds them of does wonders for adding to vocabulary and stimulates the skill of association.

So find a puzzle, any puzzle you enjoy, and share it with children or grandchildren (we are so fortunate to have them). Start simple. The older they get, the more they can deal with. A young mind can absorb so much in a short period of time - and it will bring you closer to your kids, providing them with a lifetime of benefit.

I've shared some of my treasure. Why don't you share yours? Those teacher-created materials are the gift that keeps on giving.

Bar Code Solution


Pattern Recognition Solution


Checkerboard Solution


Word Pattern Solutions


Coded Puzzle Solutions

1. Because they are full of antibodies.

2. Be careful


Miss Take

© 2016 John R Wilsdon

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