You Only Think You Hate Sudoku by Kaila McCarthy

You exercise your body, but how do you keep your brain fit? In last week’s post, I mentioned that you don’t need to pay for a monthly subscription or download an app to give your brain exercise. But maybe you still need some more direction on how to engage your brain. If that is the case, let me introduce you to Sudoku!

Many of you may have some preconceived notions about sudoku, but you only think you hate it. If you give it a chance, and find a level that is right for you, I promise that it is not as bad as you think it is. In fact, I think you will actually grow to love this exercise. For starters, there is no math involved. It is a game of pure logic and organization, with a little bit of counting (but still no math). In addition, it is a great all around brain exercise. This is one “brain game” that actually has some research supporting its use to help improve cognitive functioning. The results of one research study stated, “Sudoku has several key features that enable it to be an excellent candidate as an activity for improving/maintaining working memory performance” (Grabbe, 2017). In addition to working memory, it also targets visual attention and executive functioning skills.

Now that I have convinced you of the benefits of sudoku, let’s jump in! A traditional sudoku puzzle is a 9x9 grid, which is then further divided into nine blocks, each containing nine squares. The rules are simple: each of the nine blocks has to contain all the numbers 1-9 within its squares. Each number (1-9) can only appear once in each row, column and block. The puzzle works perfectly, with only one right answer. You cannot guess, but instead must use process of elimination to determine how to fill in the missing numbers.

If you are new to sudoku, I suggest by starting with some smaller puzzles. There is a level for everyone, so do not be intimidated by the puzzle you see in your Sunday newspaper. For example, you can find different size puzzles with the easiest being a 4x4 grid, and then a 6x6 grid. You can also find them labeled by their level of difficulty (easy to extremely difficult). One of the other great things about sudoku, is that you find it anywhere. You can buy a book of puzzles at the grocery store, you can find puzzles in newspapers and magazines, and there are so many printable options online.

Stay tuned for video tutorials and free printable puzzles in next week's blog!

Jeremy W. Grabbe (2017) Sudoku and Changes in Working Memory Performance for Older Adults and Younger Adults, Activities, Adaptation & Aging, 41:1, 14-21, DOI: 10.1080/01924788.2016.1272390


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