Seven Lateral Thinking Puzzles

In an earlier post I suggested using lateral thinking as a warmer. Lateral thinking problems encourage learners to think creatively and critically to solve problems. Remember your learners can ask any question but you (or the puzzle setter if it is a learner) can only answer yes, no or not important/relevant.

If it works with your learners here are seven more puzzles of differing complexity.

Again I’m not claiming any originality for these puzzles – they are some of the goodies I have picked up over the years. There are plenty more on out there on the web.

  1. A man in a box.

This story took place in England in the 1980s. A man is standing in a box. He has his arms spread wide. There is broken glass on the floor. There is also a stick in the box.

What happened?

  1. Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet are dead. They are lying on the floor in a pool of water. There is also broken glass around them. A window is open.

What happened?

  1. How many babies?

A woman gave birth to two sons on the same day of the same year. However, they are not twins.


  1. Who is the surgeon?

This is a great one for challenging stereotypes about gender roles

There is a terrible accident in which a boy and his father are injured. They are both taken to the hospital and the boy is rushed to surgery. The surgeon enters the room and looking at the boy exclaims “I can’t operate on him, he is my son!”.


  1. The old man and the elevator.

An old man lives on the top floor of a very tall apartment building. Every morning he takes the lift to the ground floor and goes for a walk. When he returns home he takes the lift three-quarters of the way up the building and then walks the remaining floors. However, if it is raining he travels all the way to the top.


  1. The new driver.

A young woman has just passed her driving test. As she leaves the driving centre a police officer watches her turn into a one-way street and travels down it. The police officer takes no action.


  1. All is black.

A man is dressed all in black clothes with black gloves and a black mask. He is standing in the middle of the road surrounded by buildings that are all painted black. The street lights are broken and there is no moon. A black car without headlights drives straight towards him but doesn’t hit him.



And the solutions

1. He is in a telephone box – one for the older readers! He has just been fishing and is describing the size of fish he caught (or the one that got away). As he was describing this on the phone he naturally held out his hands to show how big the fish was – forgetting the consequences.

2. Romeo and Juliet are goldfish. They had been living happily in their bowl until one day a strong wind blew the window which in turn knocked the bowl onto the floor. Alternatively the strong wind blew the bowl onto the floor.

3. They are two of the sons in a set of triplets.

4. The surgeon is the boy’s mother.

5. The old man bought his apartment when he was much younger and taller. As he aged he shrank and can no longer reach the top button – unless it is raining when he uses his umbrella.

(I don’t know why he doesn’t take his umbrella with him every day).

6.She is walking down the street.

7. It is daytime.


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