Teachers' Area

Learn more about the gridlocks project, get suggestions for their use, and download pdfs.

Gridlock puzzles are designed to do 3 major things:


They give the students a problem solving context for the activity – students like solving problems and there is a sense of satisfaction in completing the gridlock. There can be an aspect of competition as well: who solved the most, who was quickest or who made the least mistakes. In the online versions the students are trying to beat the clock.


The students need to engage with the factual information the gridlock is based on. In order to solve the puzzle they need to recall the relationships between the data established in the first part of the activity. For example they need to recall that 3 electron pairs gives trigonal planar geometry or that sulfuric acid forms sulfate salts. Whilst they are solving the gridlocks they should find themselves referring to the initial data repeatedly so much so that they recall a fair bit of it by the end.


It develops some important thinking skills. The students have to survey the data given in the gridlock to find which squares can initially be filled in. They cannot simply choose a square at random and fill it in because there may not be enough information yet in the grid to narrow down the options to one possible answer. This thinking skill is sadly missing in the students who, given a titration calculation want to straight multiply a concentration by a volume to give the moles of the reactant asks for despite not having all the relevant information yet. Gridlocks also encourage logical reasoning e.g. 'it has to be x because it can't be w, y or z'.

How they might be used:

Gridlocks are suitable for an episode in a lesson or homework. They are designed to be follow up activities rather than an introduction to a topic. The students should have met at least some of the data the gridlocks are based on. The online gridlocks could be tackled by students working individually or a class using a projector. The paper based gridlocks are easy to set and readily peer or self assessed. Some gridlocks go beyond specifications and could be used as extension activities.

The first time you use a gridlock:

It is best to put up the gridlock on a screen and show the class how they work by talking through how to fill in the first few boxes on the first gridlock. Otherwise too many will say 'I don't get it'. Weaker groups may need this careful introduction several times.

I very much hope you and your students enjoy using them.

Tim Jolliff Gridlock designer




Gridlocks is funded as part of the Reach and Teach educational programme supported by the Wolfson Foundation.