Home Activity Generic Puzzle
Swirling water vortex
Sent in by Jessica Lake

The game/puzzle activity helps develop team working skills, brainstorming techniques while introducing or develop the concept of generic transfer of ideas.

“The kids we played with did the letters set in the same time as the numbers and were thrilled that the same strategy was effective in both.”



  • Two rooms one in which everybody can go to talk about ideas the other in which the puzzle is set (There’s a surprise switch made in the puzzle so going off into a corner of the same room or area to talk about it doesn’t work unless you don’t plan on it being a surprise.)
  • A long string/hose or chalk (if you have a playing area you can draw on)
  • Two sets of approx. 30 pieces of foam, sponge, cloth or even paper (the number of pieces is not particularly important). Number the first set of pieces with numbers (e.g. from 1 to 30) then label the second set of pieces with letters A-Z and perhaps any remaining pieces of the second set with numbers 27 – 30. You may prefer to perhaps randomly choose to replace certain letters e.g. A, B, C, 4, E, 6, 7, H, etc… (It’ll make them think, but don’t do this for particularly young players!!)


This game could be played with any number of people, but for this example 21 are used.

Create a large circle using the hose/string or draw it using the chalk. Keep the pieces labelled with letters hidden from view, but place the pieces numbered 1-30 randomly around in circle. Divide the players up into small equal groups (suggest no more than 10 per group) e.g. if there are 21 people playing divide them into 3 groups of 7 each. Have everybody stand around the circle.


Each group needs to figure out a way to touch every single number from 1-30 (in order) in the quickest time possible BUT!

Each group will be penalised 1 point (or if you are timing it, adding a 5-second time penalty) for breaking each of the following rules:

  • Only one person can be inside the circle at one time
  • You are not allowed to speak or make any noises with your mouth.
  • Numbers must be touched IN ORDER (can be touched with hands, feet, whatever)

Send the groups to different places outside the room with the following questions.

  • How are you going to do this without speaking?
  • How are you going to do this quickly?

Get them to brainstorm their ideas on how to do this.

Call each team over separately and time them, tell them the result and send them back out to figure out a way to do it even faster get them to come up with more ideas. Call them back in for a second attempt, time them and let them know whether they’ve improved. Now encourage them to try for a one final third time and send them out again. While they are brain storming outside the room, switch the numbers in the circle for the letters and call the teams back in. Expect a chorus of “uh-oh’s”, but tell them not to worry – there is a strategy!

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