Last week, I was working with a math tutoring student, and I introduced her to the game of Sudoku. A few days later, her teacher assigned a KenKen puzzle to the class, and I was tasked with helping her develop some problem solving strategies with these new challenges. Admittedly, I had no previous experience with KenKen before, but a quick Google search and a trip to the App Store and Market brought me to KenKen Lite for the iPhone and Mathdoku for Android.
For those unfamiliar with KenKen, the Academy (found in KenKen Lite) is the best place to start, as you will be escorted through three lessons and a Final Exam. It was through these activities that I was able to pick up the game play in a matter of minutes. In this free version, you’ll then want to try each of the four included puzzles ranked in order of difficulty. For those acquainted with Sudoku rules, the concept is quite similar with the added touch of including math rules in the grid. For example, one square of a 2×1 grid might have a 3+ in it, which means you must use your numbers to have the sum of the grid equal to 3.
Although I wasn’t able to finish the master level puzzle on my bus ride into work, I did become sufficiently hooked enough to look into purchasing the full game. To satisfy my immediate needs, I was pleased to find Mathdoku, a free app available on Android. With both apps, I could easily see why the teacher suggested that her students engage in KenKen puzzles. The game provides a quick way for students to perform basic mental math calculations while solving a potentially addictive brain teaser. Students have often turned to calculators much too early and often, so it’s refreshing to see an application where it is advantageous to know and compute basic arithmetic in one’s head.
When used early in one’s education, KenKen can reinforce the above mentioned basic math skills. If used later, it could potentially motivate a student into learning math again. I’ve seen many students who turned off by math taught in the classroom still dive head first into Sudoku puzzles. I’d love to see KenKen gain similar popularity since it offers more than just basic number skills.
KenKen Lite is a free app available for the iPhone in the App Store.
KenKen Pro is available for the iPhone for $2.99 in the App Store.
Mathdoku is available for free in the Android Market.