Go Pro!

Yearly archive for 2015.

A New Game - Word Snake

For some, school has already started, but this is Labor Day weekend, and many schools will begin classes tomorrow. So we have a gift for you, to start your school year out right.

A new game.

It's called "Word Snake," and it is somewhat similar to Cross Search. You are given a key word, and you have to find a word related to that word.

The catch is...the word doesn't have to be in a straight line. The letters will be connected horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.  Find the word by clicking the letters.

In the sample shown, the key word was "school," and the hidden word was "book."

You can  try this game out here: Word Snake.

Incidentally, the clues and words are the same words which are used in Cross Search and Multi Word Scramble. This list was largely created by visitors to the site - probably five to ten years ago - and has not been edited since then. In the coming weeks we'll be tweaking this list and improving it.

Daily Puzzle Updates

Since the new site went live, we've had some issues with Daily Games getting "stuck" - either repeating the same puzzle over and over, or cycling through a very small subset of the available puzzles. We're going to be working on repairing that this week. What does this mean for you? Not much...except it's possible that some day (maybe tomorrow, maybe the day after) you'll get a different Daily depending on whether you visit before or after our updates! This is only going to matter to people who like to share their results with friends - there will be a day this week that your friends and you may not all be doing the same daily!

If you've been sending your students to The Problem Site on a regular basis (or, for non-teachers, your children), you should know that there are now some powerful new features for you to use in assigning activities to your students. Our old "Teacher Features" have been renamed to "Virtual Classroom", and have significantly expanded features.

What's even more impressive is that while the features have increased, the price has decreased! In the old version, teachers needed to pay a "per student" fee every year, but now you can pay one flat fee to subscribe as a teacher, and you can add an unlimited number of students within paying any extra. (Your first year, the flat fee is just under $10; each year after that it's only $4.95!).

So what are the new features? In addition to being able to assign game activities and reference units, your Virtual Classroom subscription offers you the following capabilities:

  • Assign online quizzes to your students
  • Create your own quizzes, if you can't find just what you want to assign
  • Assign problems to your students
  • Create your own problems
  • Create vocabulary word lists and use them to make worksheets (word searches, jumbles, and Cross Search puzzles)
  • Create vocabulary word lists and use them to make interactive game activities (Hangman, Picture Word, MultiWord Scramble, Word Flash, Telephone and Blackberry games)

The reporting features have become even more powerful, allowing you to drill down to data for each individual game play.

If you're interested in getting started with the virtual classroom, click here: Virtual Classroom Shopping.

The first $4.95 gives you a Pro Membership, which never expires, and the second $4.95 is your Virtual Classroom subscription, which you will need to renew each year you use the classroom.

You will also have the option of purchasing student credits. If you are unsure if you need those, skip them for now; you can always come back later and add them to your account!

With the school year starting up, we've had a couple inquiries from teachers about why the site has changed since last year. This was already somewhat answered back in the summer, when the site changeover was made, but since it happened during summer vacation, many teachers didn't see the new site until "back to school time," so I'd like to address the question in a little more depth, especially for teachers.

"The Problem Site" was built piecemeal over the last 15 years, but at its heart, it was all designed on a technology which has now become obsolete. And not only obsolete - technology which has been deprecated. In technology, "deprecated" means the same as "obsolete," but with the additional caveat that it is being phased out.

In other words, deprecated technology is technology which will cease to function entirely.

So to any who are wondering, "why in the world did you change everything?" the answer is very simply: "We didn't have a choice. The entire site had to be rebuilt from the ground up. Line by line," And believe me - that's a LOT of lines of code - we haven't tried to do an exact tally, but as a Fermi Problem, we would estimate it at 1x105 (about a hundred thousand) lines of code. NOT rebuilding the site would have been the equivalent of sliding the entire site into a giant virtual trash can. Not really an option we wanted!

Another reason for the changes has to do with changes in our site audience.  More and more people are using tablets and mobile devices to use the site, and many of our games were either completely non-functional, or awkward to use in a mobile device (try touching those tiny little alphabet buttons on a mobile device - not much fun!). One of the goals with this redesign was to make the games and other content more accessible to people on mobile devices. As a consequence of the modifications, mobile visits to the site have skyrocketed.

The games were tested in most of the major modern browsers, but we do occasionally get e-mails from people saying "Game X doesn't work in my browser." More often than not, the person who sends an email like this is using a very old version of Internet Explorer. (We did virtually no testing on versions of Internet Explorer less than 9). If you're using IE 8 or older, you should be aware that you are using an obsolete browser that may have security issues. You really should upgrade your browser. And if you can't upgrade your browser, that probably means that you're using an obsolete operating system with even more security issues. At the very least, you should start using Chrome, Opera, Firefox or another browser if you're in this situation, and the best solution is to upgrade your operating system.

Unfortunately, we do understand that with budget constraints, many schools are stuck with obsolete technology, and no foreseeable way out of the technology quagmire. So if you're saying "Game X doesn't work for me, and I can't upgrade/change my browser," we want to help you figure out what's going wrong.  Please don't think that you're inconveniencing us by asking us to try to make a game work in your browser. We've already had two games that we've successfully tweaked for someone who is using IE8, and one that was successfully modified for someone using an older version of Firefox. It's possible we won't be able to help you resolve the issue, but we will certainly try.

Just scroll down to the bottom of the page and click the "Ask Professor Puzzler" link. When you write, please tell us what you're using for a device (is it a PC? A Mac? An android? etc) and also what browser you're using (please include the version number if you can find it!), as well as a description of what happens when you try to play the non-functioning game.

Soon we will post "Note for Teachers Part Two: New Features"!

One of the things that makes our quiz department unique is that the quizzes are primarly filled with valuable educational content, unlike many quiz sites that are filled with quizzes like "Which movie describes your life?" Quizzes like those are a lot of fun, but we want to make sure that our quizzes are more valuable than just "fun".

You can see from the image on the right that our quizzes cover a wide variety of topics in the educational curriculum (click the image to see an enlarged version).

So what's the new feature? Now when you finish a quiz, you can share your quiz results on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. We'd like to ask that, if you appreciate the educational content we provide free of charge to schools and individuals, you take the time to complete one of our quizzes and share your quiz results on social media. This would be a wonderful way to let your friends know about The Problem Site, and will only take you a couple short minutes.

Click here to select a quiz.

Here's a sample question from our quiz about American Literature:

And here is a sample of some of our featured quizzes on the site.



If you want to create your own quizzes, take a few minutes and few dollars to become a Pro Member!

Recently I had the following brief conversation with someone:

"I really like playing Cross Search." (coming from someone who leans more toward math and science, this surprised me). "Do you know why?"


"Because there are only four words in it. It's a quick game, and I can play it without a large time commitment."

Which reminded me that there are some games on the site that do require a larger time commitment - games like Trio Match, Quadratic Rush, and One to Ten.

It occurred to me then that the "One to Ten" concept could easily be re-worked to create a new game that is, like some of the other games, much quicker to play.

Thus, The Operations Game was born. This game looks very much like "One to Ten," except that instead of having to find 10 different numbers, you're only given one target number. In other words, each game is exactly one problem solving activity, instead of ten, all bundled into one game.

This should be great for people who might be thinking, "Oh, I don't have time right now to play an entire game of One to Ten!" but do have time for a much shorter game.

There are 3,000 Operations Game puzzles on the site, so you should be able to play for a long time without seeing a repeat.

Also, this game now appears on the "Daily" page as well.

Play The Operations Game

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