The Educator Chalenge: Can You Solve These 20 Educational Riddles?

I love how riddles challenge the status quo and they stretch us to think differently. They can be frustrating, even addicting. Yet, the moment that we find the reason, connections, or contexts necessary to figure one out, there is this mini or major experience of what feels like personal victory. We might even pump our fists or raise our arms in celebration. As such, I decided to put together a little challenge for the willing educator (or others interested in education). Each riddle relates to education in some way. If you are familiar with the themes in my writing, then you have an advantage, but this is doable for anyone willing to invest the time and effort. Feel free to post your guesses or answers in the comment section, noting the number of the riddle that you think you have solved. Enjoy!

  1. You see me best when people fail. You can fix me. You can grow me.  You can change me if you know me. HINT: This one was inspired by the name of a celebrated book that continues to gain traction in thinking about how people learn.
  2. Sometimes I’m welcome. Sometimes I’m not. I encourage. I discourage. I direct. I reflect. And when I’m used well, I can even help perfect. HINT: This is an essential ingredient of learning.
  3. I can fill your mind while emptying your pockets. I can open doors. Many claim I give you profits. The public sign says, “Ignoring Me Can Be Your Doom” even though some do so on their way to the boardroom. HINT: Abraham Lincoln would probably guess this one in an instant.
  4. I’m used to rank eggs, beef, bonds, boys and girls; and people prize me like I’m made of pearls. HINT: Do you really need a hint for this one?
  5. I’m hot or cold and made of paper, and some insist that I can help you climb a skyscraper. HINT: This one is closely connected to #3.
  6. I’m the road you take to the town of better, but staying on me is no guarantee. How you travel and what you think will determine the time and length. HINT: Every expert did this for years.
  7. I tell kids where to be over 16,000 times before I finally set them free. HINT: I wrote an article on this one in the past, so you can probably find the answer by searching for the title…but you don’t need that, do you?
  8. I will not tell, but I’ll help you see. My query is part of your discovery. HINT: This one goes back to before 399 BC.
  9. I light fires. I irrigate deserts. The better I am, the less I’m needed. The less I’m needed, the more of a difference I have made. HINT: Note every one these will agree with the content in this riddle.
  10. I’ll all about deep and doing. I’ll serve you best if you’re focused and pursuing. And while some will claim that I’m a progressivist design, I’m really part of an ancient bloodline. HINT: Ask Buck if you need some help.
  11. At my best, I’m a trinity of integrating, deliberating, and other-centered concentrating. HINT: Ask Robert Sigmon.
  12. I was first invented to count a doughboy’s smarts. Then I became a defining part of the largest factory in human history. HINT: This is a test.
  13. I was the innovative tool that ended the one room school, and shifted a peer-to-peer structure to a place of homogeneity and lecture. HINT: This was uncommon in the US before the 1850s.
  14. I’m a central part of the K-12 and higher education system. Yet, I was built on the flawed notion that a man running for 50 minutes & another man walking for 50 minutes will cover the same distance. HINT: I’m named after the man whose work helped fund public libraries around the United States.
  15. From tennis to gorillas and warfare, I’ve seen over 20,000 sunsets and created billions of dollars. Now some want to use me to solve world problems & shape the next young scholars. HINT: This isn’t an education term, but it is finding its way into education more every year.
  16. I go all the way back to Alexandar the Great, but I started to go down with an 1852 mandate. Yet, in the New World I’m now 3% and I’m on the ascent. HINT: Ironically, this describes the education of Horace Mann.
  17. I’m a child. I’m a symbol. I’m largely unrestricted and incredibly nimble. I can help people see who you are to some degree, although that is not me. HINT: Some hate the boy scout comparison but I still find it useful.
  18. I’m an agent on a mission. I set why and when and how. I’m a pupil with a thousand teachers. HINT: Knowles, Boles, and Gibbons each wrote a book on this.
  19. Manage me to keep on learning. The more you know going in, the less I’m hurting. Seeing or hearing two at once can make me grow and make you a dunce. HINT: John Sweller is my father.
  20. Too often people think we’re twins, but that is just not true. He is small, while I am grand. He is contained while I will constantly expand. But if you think we’re both the same, you mind risks becoming both tame and lame. HINT: The Kettering Foundation has a great video by Dr. Edmund Gordon that speaks to these two words.
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About Bernard Bull

Dr. Bernard Bull is the author of Missional Moonshots, Assistant Vice President of Academics, Associate Professor of education, and a frequent keynote speaker and consultant on topics related to educational innovation and entrepreneurship, futures in education, and the intersection of education and digital culture. Opinions expressed here do not reflect those of his primary employer(s).

3 thoughts on “The Educator Chalenge: Can You Solve These 20 Educational Riddles?

  1. macottee

    2 – feedback
    3 – something like private education
    4 – I agree with grades
    6- University
    12 SAT’s – Not sure not from USA so struggling with a lot of these.

    7 & 8 have the answer included.


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