The Art of Problem Solving: Learnup Recap

I love puzzles and brainteasers. And I wanted to share my love with the world! But I never had the means to. Sure, I could write a blog post about how to solve problems. However, there are too many posts such as these around. And it lacks the certain personal touch. So I was stuck …

Then Venturesity came up with the LearnUp concept: a means to share and gain knowledge about many different domains. This would be a perfect opportunity for me to share my enthusiasm, no?

So I bit the bullet and decided to share my knowledge in a LearnUp. I called it, somewhat bombastically, “The Art of Problem Solving.”

I was a bit nervous of whether the LearnUp would be a success. I didn’t know much about the interest level and abilities of the populace in this domain. I hoped I wouldn’t be giving a talk to an empty room!

The Arrival

I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at the venue. There were about 30 people eagerly waiting for me. (I was running a bit late!). However, Paras Pundir, our community manager, kept them all suitably entertained during the wait.

Paras keeping the crowd busy!
Paras keeping the crowd busy!

The Introductions

I started off with introductions. Most of the attendees were from the computer science domain. There were also a few engineering types from mechanical or electronics background. There were even a blogger and a marketer! All in all, a crowd that did have some sort of problem-solving background.

I also found it interesting that apart from a couple of familiar faces, most of the attendees were new. That is, they had not attended any of Venturesity’s events before. So I was their first introduction to Venturesity. Pressure!

The Session

I don’t want to describe in detail what happened during the session. Otherwise, the post will become unmanageably long! Rather, I will limit my description to give you an overall picture of what occurred. And my approach during the session.

I employed a simple formula: I introduced the audience to a problem-solving technique by way of example. Then I asked them to work on a similar puzzle using the technique I outlined.

And after the participants solved it, I showed them a different approach to solving the same puzzle! Simple, but effective.

The audience puzzling over puzzles.
The audience puzzling over puzzles.

One aspect I think everyone particularly liked was my idea of problem extension. That is, to generalize the particular puzzle to other situations. For example, in the classic 9 ball weighing problem, I had people thinking about what is the minimum number of weighings needed if you have n balls rather than a specific number.

So overall, I think that the session went smoothly enough. And because I talked about several classic puzzles, many of the audience were quite familiar with them! But I hope I was able to add a little spice to these because I showed them how to solve them in very different ways. Ways that they might not have thought of before.

What I learned from conducting the LearnUp

I learned a lot during and after the LearnUp. The participants were just awesome. Enthusiastic and willing to actually work things out! And quite forgiving too. I did make a couple of minor mistakes during the session, but rather than holding it against me, they helped me out.

I also learned that the audience for this kind of session is huge. Many people are interested in brain teasers and problems. And I hope I did a decent job of helping people crystallize their thought processes.

Further Resources For Exploration

During the session, people asked me for further resources. I gave them a list of such resources, but to help jog memories, here’s the list again:

Of course, I could add more, but this should do. For now. 🙂

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed the session. The time went by very quickly. I hope that the attendees at the LearnUp enjoyed it as much as I did. It’s fun to think!

Also, if you were at the venue, and you have any thoughts on how to improve it, please let me in the comment section below. This will help me for the next LearnUp I conduct!

To close, I want to leave you thinking about a problem. This is one of my own creation, so you can’t find the answer by simply Googling! Or can you? 😀

I lost a book. Can you find it? (This is a conundrum, a puzzling thing, so find a solution!)

I want to find a book. A book put in writing in Paris. But I want you to assist in this task. I was told that if I could find out an unusual thing in a paragraph that hit my brain in a fit of inspiration, I would find and go through an original book. But this is too hard for my poor conscious brain. Can you aid in this inquiry? This was what struck my noggin just as I was dropping into a light nap:

Look within and you shall find it. Call upon your cranium. It’s handy, you know? Wordsmiths and word aficionados can find out what book quickly. But lay folk may not. But I know that you, as a scholar in this day can find it. No? Do you want a hint? Nay! Nary a hint. Okay. Just a hint. Study all word options in this paragraph assiduously. Got it? If you did, good. Also, try doing what I am doing on your own. It’s actually not all that difficult to do. You would probably also want to consult a dictionary to do so. But writing a book on this stuff is astonishing! You might want to Bing it right away too. And you also might want to look at Wiki. But don’t worry about any void in your task.

Email the answer to me at when you get it. And you might walk away with a prize!

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