Mess With Their Minds

Time to add some challenging fun to your classroom routine with Brain Teasers for teens! First, give these head-scratchers a try:

questionsWhen you’re ready, scroll down for the answers.
pinkarrowNow, did you really give yourself time to think through the answers?

Challenging, no? There are many different ways you might want to use these slides in your classroom, including:

1. Use as a routine bell-ringer activity to begin class one day each week. I use these as Brain Teaser Tuesdays (I enjoy alliteration), but they’ll work great any day of the week.

2. Use them to soak up those occasional last few minutes of a class period when a daily lesson wraps up more quickly than you planned.

3. Use them as part of an ongoing team activity/contest that runs a full nine-week quarter. Each nine weeks, one of my colleagues sorts her classes into teams of three students. Then, students occasionally compete against the other teams throughout the quarter in review games, grammar skill-builders, and these sorts of brain games. She keeps a running tally of the teams’ names and earned points, updating her website each week with the class standings. As the quarter rolls along, her room starts to feel a little like Hogwarts (“Ten points for Gryffindor!”) and the teens really love it. To keep every team engaged, she uses makeshift whiteboards with page protectors, a piece of white paper, and a dry erase marker, which gives all of the teams time to formulate their answers before the answer is revealed. This helps encourage buy-in for all players since the game is not a race – the first team to answer doesn’t earn more points than any other correctly answering team. At the end of the quarter, the winning team wins a prize or bonus points in the gradebook.

4. Use the slides as a reward for classes that hit certain benchmarks or goals.

There are 38 questions (and answers) in each volume, allowing you to use two questions per weekly session or one question two times a week in a semester. (Note: Questions #1 and #2 above are from my Vol. 1 bundle, while #3 and #4 are from Vol. 2.) Most semesters run 18 weeks but I threw in a couple of extra questions just in case there’s one or two you don’t like/want to skip.

In my class, I use just one question to begin class every Tuesday, but I switch up the question for my later classes because my teens love to blab the answer at lunchtime to their friends in my afternoon classes. (Don’t they have anything better to talk about than my class? Sheesh.) You also could work from the beginning of the bundle with one class and work from the end of the bundle with a different class, just to keep students on their toes.

However you choose to use these slides, I hope they find a place in your teacher’s toolbox of activities as you work to help your teens develop word sense, lateral thinking, and those oh-so-important logic skills.

Teach on, everyone!

UPDATE: By popular demand, a third and fourth volume of Brain Teasers are also now available. Click here for Vol. 3 and here for Vol. 4. Enjoy!


50 thoughts on “Mess With Their Minds

  1. Such a great and easy time filler! I would love a post on what your first week of school looks like. I was recently hired to teach high school English. My experience has been in elementary school, so I was wondering what a HS first week looked like!

  2. Thanks, Stephanie! From elementary to high school? Whoa, now that’s a leap! For my first week, I definitely use the memes I discussed here ( and spend a good amount of time establishing the classroom bell-ringer routines of MUG Shot Monday, Lit. Term Tuesday, Words on Wed. and S.S.R. Fridays. I love the idea of explaining my first week (month? semester? hmm…) in a future blog post. Thanks for planting that seed! Oh, and welcome to high school – the craziest bullet train you’ll ever ride!

    UPDATE: My Stephanie-inspired blog post is now available here:

  3. Janet Garrett says:

    Your resources are so engaging and my students love them! I love them as well. You give so much content and details that it makes it so easy to turn around and use them! Our district requires so much when it comes to the details in plans; your resources covers everything so I’m not spending hours. Thank you!

  4. Thanks so much for the feedback, Janet. I love knowing that these will find a place in your classroom and that my lesson materials are helping to ease your prep load. Success!

  5. Laura, I just had to tell you that these have been a great addition to my Fun Friday warm-up rotation! The students (8th grade) didn’t know what to think of them at first but now are really into them and look forward to them each week. Next quarter I’ll make them into a competition–bring on the games!

  6. I love knowing this, Stacey! Thanks for your note. My freshmen are also really, really into these slides as part of our Quarter Trio competition. I think we have a winner here! 🙂

  7. Carolyn best says:

    Question 2 answer is incorrect. One hundred and one is the first number with the letter A.

  8. Ha, Carolyn! This made me smile, but I think I’ll keep saying, “One hundred one.” 🙂

  9. Kari Augustine says:

    I agree … mathematically, use “and” for the decimal point. 1.25 = one and twenty five hundredths.

  10. Suzanne Sosa says:

    Hi Laura
    First I want to share that aftr 10 years in Middle school, 10 in First Grade – I’m headed back to Middle school! I am not 1/3 the English teacher guru you are! Your BLOG site is absolutely amazing.

    I have two Q’s for you:
    1. How long have you been teaching?
    2. How long are your classes – block schedule or 1 hour, etc?

  11. Hey Suzanne,
    Wow, from middle to first grade and back again? Whoa, now that’s quite an assignment. I just finished my 18th year at the high school level. Our classes run five days a week with 55-minute classes each day, though I would LOVE to teach on a block. Once in a while, my campus gets a wacky schedule (weird testing days, guest speaker events, etc.) and we play around with different block schedule options. I’m always happier on those days because I don’t feel as rushed as usual. Each day, I’m packing A LOT into the class and I feel like I’m always racing the clock.

    Hope you’re having a restful summer!
    🙂 Laura

  12. I disagree with #3. The snail will only go up to 30 feet, but the question asks how long it will take it to crawl out. 30 feet only gets it to the top, not out.

  13. Fair enough, Liz. Feel free to change this one for your kids, but I think I’ll stick with the current answer on the slide. When I’ve climbed to the the top of the hill, I’m outta the woods. 🙂

  14. Marguerite Hansen says:

    Your footnote on the 1000 dollar bill states that it’s not a real bill. However, it is a real bill, just no longer in circulation. I knew of someone who was aware they were going out of circulation and accumulated a stash of them.

  15. That’s so cool, Marguerite! I actually Photoshopped the extra zeroes on this one, and I’d probably flip out if I saw one in real life. That’s some funny money!
    Have a great Monday,
    🙂 Laura

  16. I have really enjoyed reading this page and others! Many thanks.
    My second thought, was to comment that one hundred and one is the first number with the letter ‘A’! I see that comment has been made and you don’t use ‘and’! Interesting and fun…creates thoughtful debate as well.

  17. Indeed, GMMilne! As long as they’re thinking, I’m happy. 🙂

  18. daniel moak says:

    the first has a second correct answer- Shampoo is the only word in the set with more than one syllable

  19. Daniel,
    In all my times using this question with different classes, no team has ever given your answer, but I like it! Definitely credit awarded for both answers. 🙂

    Thanks for playing!

  20. Tim Poole says:

    #1 probably has quite a number of ‘correct’ answers. I wonder if taste is the only word which doesn’t contain another word: (b)rush, (sham)poo, (s)ten(ch), (f)lush, (w)ash, (s)eat. But as you say, it’s all about the thinking and reasoning.

  21. Wow, Tim, now that’s some creative thinking. Love it and would definitely award your team credit for this answer, though I’m also thinking that “taste” has a little word hidden inside, too: t(as)te. 🙂

  22. Silvia Collins says:

    Thought this was really cool. I am English though and we don’t say ‘one hundred one’, we say ‘one hundred and one’, so that doesn’t work over the pond. Unless, of course, we just change the correct answer for our students.

  23. Ah, interesting difference, Silvia. In that case, I might skip that slide or just tell your students that you got these from your wacky American friend and then give your kiddos credit for “one hundred and one” or “one thousand.” Problem solved! 😉

  24. Jojo Billfish says:

    Mathematically, it’s one hundred one, also on #1 the only thing I thought of was that seat didn’t have a comma after it 🙂

  25. Fun, Jojo! Definitely feel free to give credit for any reasonable answers. I even have my T.A. serve as the judge on borderline cases. Enjoy! 🙂

  26. The answer to the second question is, rather unfortunately, incorrect.

  27. I’m comfortable if we agree to disagree, Adam. I still prefer to say “one hundred-one,” but would give a team a point for “one hundred and one.” As long as the kids are thinking, I’m happy!

  28. #3 It will take 28 days to climb. Once he’s reached up after 28days he won’t slip back 2 ft at night.

  29. The first number to have an “a” in it is one hundred and one (ignoring the one and a half potential).

  30. HI Roy,
    I still say “one hundred one” when I’m counting, but I’d definitely give a team a point for “one hundred and one” and also for your “one and a half” answer. That’s some creative thinking! As long as the kids are using their logical minds, I’m happy. 🙂

  31. These are fun. 🙂 I purchased the 4-pack bundle awhile back, and I choose a couple each week to throw in the mix with our Spanish brain teasers. I call them our Weekly Brain Burn Challenges. Hehe! Love them!

  32. So glad these are useful, Tara. And I’m loving “Brain Burn.” May just have to steal that nickname the time I throw these up on the board. 🙂

  33. The first one could also be shampoo. It is the only word with two syllabuls.

  34. Carvinwood says:

    First puzzles answer could SHAMPOO because it is only two syllable word.

  35. A fun way to solve the riddle, Carvinwood! Feel free to award points for any reasonable answers – that’s what I do. 🙂

  36. First puzzle answer for me was taste….all the others could refer to bathroom goings on. 😜

  37. Joel Almon says:

    Your answer to the second question is not correct. The first number you come to that contains the letter “a” is:

    One hundred And one

  38. As long as they’re thinking critically, the kids always earn the point in my class. One point for you, Joel! (And one point for the “one thousand” teams, too.) 🙂

  39. Rachel Arnold says:

    As a substitute teacher, these will make great “bell ringer” activities for me while taking attendance!

    ps, my 2 cents on the ‘a’ slide… technically, the ‘a’ is the decimal, so it shouldn’t be used unless referring to money or decimals. 😉

  40. Great point, Rachel! Glad you’re here with me. 🙂

  41. Stuart Walker says:

    Answer to question 2 should be ‘a hundrend And one’ 🙂

  42. Thanks for playing, Stuart. I still prefer to say “one hundred-one” but would also give a team a point for “one hundred and one.” As long as the kids are thinking, I’m happy!

  43. What about: one hundred and one? For q.2.

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