First Ever Puzzle Day at St. John’s Prep

You could almost hear the wheels turning in their heads when more than 90 students filled Kennealy Commons on November 4th for the Prep's first-ever Puzzle Day.


Spread out at long tables and gathered in small circles, students put their heads together to solve a series of eight brain-teasing puzzles. Each of the first seven puzzles yielded a one-word clue; all seven words were needed to crack the final, ultra-challenging puzzle. See photos here.


"I was thrilled to see how much fun everyone was having," said Lisa Standring, who teachers AP Computer Science Principles at St. John's. "I tried them myself, and I can honestly say that the puzzles were very difficult. I loved that they were designed to be worked on collaboratively."


The idea behind Puzzle Day is to show students that computer science is more about solving problems than writing code, according to Ms. Standring, who uses curriculum resources developed by Harvard University's CS50 team in her course. Puzzle Day is one of the CS50 resources designed to engage students in a fun activity that encourages collaboration, creativity and resourcefulness.


The brain teasers the Prep students tackled involved logic and word puzzles. Solving them required a working knowledge of various online resources, familiarity with pop culture, and a great deal of patience. Working together to tap the talents of the entire team was the most important key to success.

Stacks of pizza arrived midway through the competition to fuel the final surge of problem solving. After more intensive brainstorming, the winning team – Henry Bowden '18, Michael Finnegan '18, Nate Hazlett '18 and Ozzie Osborne, with key assists from Michael's brother, Matthew '23 – correctly came up with the word CAREERS to solve the final puzzle. The answer to final puzzle is a wry nod to CS50's mission to draw students with more varied interests and backgrounds into the field of computer science.


This year's puzzles have not been made public because puzzle day competitions are coming up at other schools, but you can try your hand at the CS50 2015 puzzle day challenges to get a sense of the level of difficulty.



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