Higher Ed: Better Problem Solving Through Puzzles

Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger calls his “Effective Thinking and Creative Puzzle-Solving” class at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas, the “Seinfeld” of classes. Why? Burger claims the class is about nothing. In this episode of KUT’s podcast “Higher Ed,” Burger and KUT’s Jennifer Stayton discuss why that kind of class is actually about something pretty profound.

Ed has a new book out called “Making Up Your Own Mind: Thinking Effectively through Creative Puzzle Solving.” The book is based on that class that Ed teaches at Southwestern University. And yeah, he says the class is about nothing.

Ed calls the class “the Seinfeld of the curriculum because it’s about nothing and tries to teach everything. There’s no short term content,” Ed says. “It is all based on long-term practices of thinking and living. The puzzles themselves are irrelevant. They’re not important; they’re just a playground to practice these ways of thinking.”

Ed maintains that working through puzzlers and riddles practices our brains for handling bigger-ticket questions in the real world.

“There are puzzles in our everyday lives. There are puzzles in our professional lives, in our personal lives,” says Ed. “A lot of times, people cast them in a negative light and call them problems. But the truth is, life is just one puzzle after another, and the more we practice puzzle-solving on these whimsical ones, the more we can apply those exact same practices to the more serious and important ones.”

Listen to the full episode to hear more about Ed’s journey in writing the book, and to get the solution to the puzzler about time pieces and moving parts. Did you figure it out? If not, you are in good company; Ed and Jennifer did not get it, either!

This episode was recorded on Sept. 28, 2018.

Best Of “Higher Ed:” Puzzler Solutions And Real World Applications

This episode was originally posted on Dec. 3, 2017.

Puzzlers can be fun and challenging and can also help us think about some of life’s bigger questions. In this episode of KUT’s podcast Higher Ed, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger puzzle through solutions to some especially tough riddles.

Ed and Jennifer spend some time in this episode revisiting the solution to a previous puzzler about why manhole covers are round. A listener suggested other possible answers to the generally accepted one. A listener also submitted her own original puzzler and asked Ed to figure it out. Check out the full episode to hear what he comes up with and to hear how working through puzzlers can help us navigate some of life’s bigger issues.

This episode was recorded Nov. 7, 2017.

Higher Ed: Pedagogy and Puzzles

Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger is obviously a pretty busy guy. But he does make time to teach a class each year. This fall, he’s teaching a class that’s centered on puzzles. Puzzlers. Teasers. Questions that really make students grapple for the solution. Why a class focused on that? In this episode of KUT’s podcast Higher Ed, KUT’s Jennifer Stayton and Dr. Ed Burger puzzle over the value of puzzles to learning. Puzzlers can be more than fun and games; hear Ed argue for the utility of brain teasers in expanding and enhancing learning. Speaking of puzzlers… it’s time for a new one. Click here for the newest puzzler involving money and math.

This episode was recorded on September 30, 2015.