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By Robin Marks, February 2008.
Robin started his education career teaching Junior High and has now been teaching High School Math since 1991. He's also been a Cloud Kingdom Riddle and Game designer since 1988.
Riddle Rooms are puzzles which have been set up in a role-playing setting, all of them having two basic parts: solve the puzzle and then figure out how to use the solution.
In Riddle Rooms #1, for example, you're given a riddle or puzzle to solve. Once it's solved, you still need to figure out how to use that answer to open a door, find something missing or something like that.
The puzzles in Shadowman are similar but are generally just a single step of solution.
My favorite puzzles in these two books are:
Puzzle #18: Pendants in Riddle Rooms #1. This puzzle has a set of pendants, each with a different animal on it. The room contains a number of alcoves, the students need to match each animal to an alcove. For example, the wolf amulet matches the "moon" alcove and the bat amulet matches the "complete darkness" alcove. It's a fun logic puzzle to try to go from the "I'm certain this one goes here" to the "oops, none of the remainder make any sense here...
Puzzle #15: Doorways to Danger in Riddle Rooms #1. This puzzle has three keys, each with part of a logic puzzle on it. Like a traditional logic puzzle, one key tells you the truth, one lies and one tells something true and something false.
Puzzle #17: Out of Order in Shadowman. This puzzle has three pits, two of which lead to danger and one to safety. Below each is a box of twelve words, the puzzle is to figure out which words are meaningful. There's a definite trick to it, which makes it an great way of practicing problem solving.
Puzzle #19: Chest Pains in Shadowman. In this puzzle you're given a set of drawers and a jewelry box. Both of them have numbered drawers and rules on equations that must be met in order to open a drawer. For example, one of the conditions on the chest is that "the sum of the open drawers at any time must be a multiple of two, three or seven".
To use them, I just photocopy a set of the puzzles that seem appropriate for the class and then hand them out to the teams. The teams then race to see who can solve all the puzzles first.
Sometimes I'll need to give some of the teams a little nudge to get them started on the right track, but once they get going on a puzzle, the teams are usually pretty good about ending up with a solution (even if it's wrong).
Most of the puzzles have a fantasy flavor to them so the students who have Harry Potter or Eragon memorized thoroughly get into them, but it certainly doesn't slow down the other kids or turn them off from the puzzles at all.