Fun With Index Cards
Have the team practice building structures out of
a specified number of index cards. This helps the
team learn about strength and balance in structures.
As we all know, the ability to aim is essential to
creativity. Practice throwing pennies and other small
objects into cups, onto paper plates, etc.
On a "Name things that..." problem, to
emphasize creativity as opposed to pure speed, give
each team member 5 index cards. The team has the same
amount of time to respond, but responses can be in
any order, and upon giving a response, that team
member surrenders an index card. Use a 5, 3, and 1
point scoring system to distinguish different levels
Speed Spontaneous (Submitted by Whet Moser)
Split the team into groups of four, or preferably
three. Let two or three team members compete, and the
others judge. Give the competing team members a verbal problem, with the usual
rules. When they are done, rotate members so the
judges get a chance. This not only builds speed, but
forces team members to focus on the thinking time, as
there is almost no time to think between answers.
(Two of my teammates and I have tested this method
the day before competition, and found it very
What Could Go Wrong? A Problem to Prepare for
Long-Term submitted by Dave Woods
Three minutes to think, five to respond. What can
go wrong during a skit, and what can be done to
recover from the problem? Serious responses, 3
points, intentionally silly responses, 1 point.
Derivative responses encouraged. Use a tape recorder
so the team can use the answers later.
Spontaneous Problems for Long-Term
The problems below are intended to be run as
spontaneous problems, with each team member giving an
answer in turn. Their goal is to help the team come up
with ideas they can use for their long-term solution.
This is the brainstorming process, which spontaneous is
supposed to teach. The responses should come as quick as
possible, with no editing. When a team member is stuck,
the team is stuck. You should tape-record the responses
the team comes up with, so the ideas generated can be
- Name things you are interested in, and would like
to learn more about.
- Name things that you can obtain for free. Name
things that cost under $1.
- Describe ways to attach two things together.
- Describe ways things can be made compact.
- You are moving things around and setting things
up. What can you do to keep an audience
entertained while this is going on?
- Name things you know how to do, or are good at
doing. Can you think of ways to incorporate what
you're already good at into your solution? For
instance, a student on one of Matt's teams knew
how to build geometric structures made of
triangles of metal tubing. They found a way to
incorporate such a structure into their
solution's style performance. You may have your
own unique knowledge or unusual skills.
- You have (insert object here) only. How many ways
could you use it in a presentation? Try this
problem with different, common and unusual
objects: a cardboard box, a piece of wood, a toy
car, a skateboard, a bag of leaves, a computer,
3D glasses, a vacuum cleaner, etc.
- Name things that can be worn.
- People often wear things that say something about
them. For instance, a policeman carries a badge,
a fireman wears a red helmet, a businessman has a
tie. Think of different kinds of people, and what
you'd need to wear in order to pretend to be that
kind of person.
- Think of ordinary things that can make sounds.
- Watch a movie. How do the sounds and music
enhance the story? How would the feel of the
movie change if the sounds and music were
- How can you convey a place? Choose a place and
think about its essential characteristics. Is it
indoors or out? Bright or dim? Noisy or quiet?
Are there certain kinds of furniture, or styles
of buildings? Is it best depicted with detailed
cardboard scenery flats, or with a single piece
of furniture? Or a sign? Could it be shown using
sound alone? What about smell?
- Advertisers often take ordinary products and use
creative ways of promoting them. Think of TV
commercials for ordinary products, like cola,
cereal, sneakers, etc. How do they add pizzazz
and excitement to the product? How do they make
you remember their product? Can you use this
method to add style to your own solution?
- Name things that someone who is 40 likes. Name
things someone who is 40 dislikes. Name things
that someone who is your age likes. How are they
different from what older people like?
- Name things that can go wrong in a long-term
presentation, and ways to prepare for them.