Review by Amy Cox, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2014

Project Euler

Serious math and coding brainteasers best suited for gifted students

Subjects & skills
  • Math

  • Critical Thinking
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Pros: The math problems here get students' minds churning as they code to find solutions, something most students have never used programming for.

Cons: These problems are incredibly difficult for most users -- adults included -- and require strong logic and programming skills.

Bottom Line: While these puzzles may help advanced students push their skills to the next level, most students will be way out of their league.

Project Euler would work well for an AP Computer Science class or another similar setting for advanced learners. Students need to be comfortable with text-based programming -- to the point where they're writing their own programs. When solving these problems, students could work individually or in teams. The teacher could choose one problem for everyone to work on, or allow students freedom to skip around and select their own challenges. However, it may be beneficial to have students all work on the same problem at once. After students finish, they can compare the programs they used to solve the problem. The problems could also be made into a contest to see who can solve them the fastest, or who can write the shortest program that solves the problem.

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The Project Euler website provides several hundred brainteasers, but these are not just your average brainteasers. These are some seriously difficult puzzles –- even for most adults. The puzzles sound sort of like math club problems, only they usually require students to write a computer program to find the answer. Students choose a problem to work on and can solve it in any way they choose. However, the problems are all but impossible to solve without creating a computer program. Once they've selected a problem, students need a way to write their code outside of Project Euler -- preferably text-based, such as C++ or Java, though there isn't a specific programming language required. Visual coding platforms, like Scratch, simply won't be adequate for solving most of these problems.

Project Euler's problems are incredibly challenging mathematics puzzles. Aside from having the math skills, students need to be well-versed in programming to be able to solve these. Even then, many students will find the puzzles frustrating. There simply aren't any easy solutions. While this promotes some serious critical thinking, there may not be enough support for many students. 

Project Euler doesn't give students any limits, but it offers very little direction on how to solve the problems. If a student gets a problem wrong, it simply tells them they're wrong. There's no additional guiding feedback. This lack of support makes Project Euler a website best used for advanced or gifted students. While Project Euler may not work for all, it can certainly benefit competitive, self-driven students. For these kinds of kids, the opportunity to visually track their progress, and compare against their friends' totals, is a nice touch.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Self-motivated students may be engaged by the ability to track which problems they've solved. For most, however, this won't be enough to outweigh the site's rudimentary design and limited visuals.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Writing code as a means to solve problems forces students to think differently about programming. The student-driven puzzles allow students to practice and fine-tune coding skills, though the site doesn't actually teach students how to code.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

There really isn't any support for students. Any help or support will have to be found elsewhere.

Common Sense Reviewer
Amy Cox Classroom teacher

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