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The Maze Runner


Math teacher Andrew Chen scoured every inch of Escape Room, a physical game where players are locked in a room and have to use use logic and reasoning to look for a pattern, clue or anything that they could use to escape.

Chen visited Escape Room in Rowland Heights four times on a Saturday in August. Various game scenarios give him and other players one hour to decipher codes, puzzles and patterns.

“I feel like you accomplish something when you solve something in a puzzle,” Chen said. “If you have a problem in your life, you figure out a way go around and solve it [so] your life is better. It’s the same feeling [when you] figure out a puzzle. It’s rewarding.”

Chen and other players are first given a situational story for the respective Escape Rooms, each with several unlockable areas. The players only have an hour to figure out combinations, color patterns, blinking patterns and uses of physical objects by finding hidden numbers or color schemes in paintings on the walls.

“There [are] lots of clues all over the place and you have to pay attention to everything,” Chen said. “It [has] always [been] fun. The last room we played we didn’t solve, so yes, it was a little bit difficult toward the end. It’s kind of like you’re trapped in some [place]. How do you get out? [This] is a good way to practice [math since] math uses cognitive abilities of your brain.”

By giving brain challenges similar to puzzles in Escape Room of his students, Chen further improves their mathematical skills. Students collaborate together to find a solution by using visual patterns, riddles and a limited number of clues Chen provides.

“[The challenges are] fun, interactive and get them to think,” Chen said. “It’s an engaging thing [since] they’re not just quietly thinking by themselves and talking with one another. I’ve seen them work on these puzzles together [and] try to help each other figure out solutions.”

The brain challenges give students a hands-on experience and exercise their cognitive abilities. Cognitive skill such as logic and reasoning improve the application of procedures to solve abstract word problems.

“Many of my students [say] that the importance of math is learning how to solve problems,” Chen said. “It’s kind of like life. Life is about solving problems, [and] math is a good way to practice it.”

By Phillip Leung, Staff writer

Photo by Vivian Lee