Students trade puzzles for prizes in Binnion Hall contest

Cristina Loera, Writer

The puzzle of the week is a weekly puzzle contest produced by Lymeda Singleton, Mathematics Education teacher in Binnion Hall, in which students can enter and win prizes.

“It teaches different kinds of reasoning because there’s a variety of puzzles… It’s what we call visual or special reasoning… sometimes it’s numerical reasoning. It also develops abilities to look at the big picture and little picture and find the detailed clues” Singleton said.

Singleton first encountered the puzzle of the week idea from her previous 20-year teaching position at Abilene Christian University, where a fellow colleague developed a “Problem of the Week”.

“When I came [to Texas A&M University-Commerce], we were looking at a way for students to be engaged in Math, I proposed [the weekly puzzle] to a department head that we had then, and they were interested,” Singleton said.

Singleton started out with Problem of the Week, but found that there was more participation on the weeks that she did a puzzle, and within a couple of years, the Problem of the Week evolved into the Puzzle of the Week.

“I have 35 puzzles disappear every week… I usually have 10-12 turn it in every time… There’s a lot of people doing them or working on them,” Singleton said.

The puzzles are not the creation of Singleton.

“I will sit down about once a month and search for about four hours,” Singleton said. “I have about 12 websites that I pull… I basically look for puzzles all the time.”

Puzzles used in Puzzle of the Week may include a Japanese Futoshiki, a type of Sudoku puzzle using greater than or less than signs, a Strimko, a puzzle based on the idea of Latin squares, or a Shikaku, a rectangular grid puzzle, among others.

The only restrictions for entering this weekly contest is to complete the puzzle individually.

Students can earn prizes two ways: as a semester competition by having the most correct puzzles turned in, or by earning tickets. Each student earns a ticket for every correct puzzle turned in on time, and after the accumulation of ten tickets, a prize is earned. The semester competition prize is a $20 gift card awarded to an undergraduate and another $20 gift card awarded to a graduate.

“Anybody is allowed to enter and we encourage them to come. It’s a lot of fun,” Singleton said.

Copies of the Puzzle of the Week are found outside Binnion 328. The puzzle is posted every Friday and is due ten days later.