A group of science faculty describes using a commercially available, inexpensive puzzle maker (Sizzix Puzzle Maker Die No. 2) to make figures (drawings and diagrams) into puzzles. Students got six puzzles with six pieces per puzzle in each package. The figures in the puzzle pack had been discussed that day in class. Students taped the puzzle pieces together and then wrote a caption appropriate for each figure. Completion of the puzzles was not a course requirement, and the finished puzzles were not graded, although the professor read and shared feedback on them.
Student comments indicated that the puzzles were fun, challenging, innovative, and rewarding. The authors write, “It is our view that the jigsaw puzzles facilitated active learning, enhanced problem-solving skills, and encouraged group discussion.” (p. 186) Students eagerly compared their puzzles, looked at each other's captions, and discussed the figures in a friendly, competitive atmosphere, according to the authors.
If you think about it, putting a jigsaw puzzle together does require a number of cognitive activities related to learning. The authors explain, “Ultimately, solving the jigsaw puzzles involves inquiry, discovery, abstract visualization, predictions, and troubleshooting.” (p. 185) Moreover, because the puzzles are fun and challenging, students persist. They work hard to solve the puzzles and in the process spend considerable time dealing with content as it is represented in the figures. It's a simple but effective strategy for visually reviewing material. It's a technique that could be used with many kinds of content.
Reference: Rodenbaugh, H. R., Lujan, H. L., Rodenbaugh, D. W., and DiCarlo, S. E. (2014). Having fun and accepting challenges are natural instincts: Jigsaw puzzles to challenge students and test their abilities while having fun! Advances in Physiology Education, 38, 185-186.