i remember it was about half an hour into sitting in a flimsy plastic chair in the MP taking my first test as a high school student (well, technically an 8th grader) when i first read the following prompt and did a double take:
how does this sudoku puzzle relate to the honors english placement test you are currently taking?
my answer was some bs about how making one small mistake on the puzzle meant having to backtrack or start over, similar to how i needed to be careful not to make a mistake on the placement exam. thinking back, i realize how ridiculous my response to this question was. but it makes me wonder, now that i am almost done with high school, can i answer the prompt any better than i did four years ago?
While the subject matter they pertain to are in no way related, the sudoku puzzle dealing with math and the placement test dealing with english, the method by which I approach these two activities reveals the underlying similarities between the two. the main premise of a sudoku, that there can be no two numbers in one 3x3 box or in one row or column, necessitates that the problem solver, that is, I, utilize analytical skills to find any pattern in the clues that are available. each number I fill in, initially formulated through guesswork and impulse and then supported and solidified through reasoning, becomes a new hint that leads to one less empty space, resulting in almost an uninterrupted flow of logic that ultimately results in a completed puzzle. a similar pattern can be seen in the placement exam. the prompts, though coined in much more flowery language, is similar to the instructions to the sudoku in that in their very basic form, they are also asking the test taker to analyze the provided document for patterns and create an argument supported by hard evidence. the argument, in the case of the placement exam, is presented through a clear and concise thesis, and then subsequently supported in a well-organized and developed essay, complete with references to the text and explanations of the reasoning I went through to arrive at my conclusion. the argument, in the case of the sudoku puzzle, need not be written down; the validity of this argument is simply tested for accuracy as the puzzle-solver progresses and realizes the fallacies in his or her previous reasoning once he or she reaches a dead end. as in any essay, a thesis and supporting evidence must also be present in the puzzle in order to arrive at a solid conclusion: I propose that the number that belongs in this box is 5. this is due to the absence of this number in the 3x3 box, as well as the impossibility of this number being placed in the other two blank spaces due to the presence of the number 5 in the respective rows and columns of those two blank spaces. in conclusion, the number that goes in this box must be 5. although english is very rarely associated with the straightforward and logic-based subject of math, the sudoku and the placement exam demonstrate that a similar skill set is utilized in both subjects. in the end, a mastery of one of these two subjects should, in theory, facilitate a mastery of the other, as a similar process is applied in approaching both subjects.