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Kakuro for Kids (and grown-ups too)

March 9, 2008

Cross Sums, now trendily known as Kakuro, have always been my favorite pencil puzzle. I also think they’re great for students. They involve practice in logical reasoning, mental math, and summing sequences.

I have found several sources for free printable Kakuro puzzles online. My favorite is Krazy Dad but I also like Kakuro.net (these print with a large color advertisement on each page — I highly suggest changing your print mode to gray scale to save your color ink). Kakuro Puzzle has two daily printable puzzles (easy and challenge), plus 3 huge “impossible” kakuros. AKidsMath also has multiplication puzzles, which I haven’t played with much yet, but seem like they would be great for reinforcing factoring skills!

The thing is, I’d like to find some really easy ones for young beginners (grades 2-4) and I’m having trouble finding any. The few places I’ve found puzzles represented as really easy, they are small and use small numbers, but still have way more ambiguity than I’m looking for. Many don’t even have a unique solution, which bothers me. What makes an easy Kakuro easy is having a few places where the digits can be easily reasoned out, and where filling in from there leads to a few more places where the digits can be easily reasoned out. A puzzle where large numbers intersect small numbers is generally easier than a puzzle that just uses all small numbers, because the possibilities at the intersection are often smaller when the magnitudes differ. I’m finding it so hard to find those that I’m thinking of trying to make my own. But so far I haven’t found good software to support me, and I certainly don’t feel like drawing them up by hand in Word or something. I’d really like something cheap and easy that checks that my puzzle has a unique solutions, and possibly even provides some kind of difficulty rating. If anyone knows of something that fills that bill (preferably free, though I don’t mind paying a reasonable amount for quality software), please let me know!

For those who want to play online, here are some options, listed from most basic to most fully-featured:

DoKakuro has a basic online solving widget, though they only offer 5 free puzzles before asking you to pay a small fee for 100 more. Their puzzles are the only ones I’ve seen where single-digit numbers are used, which I don’t like.

Kakuro.com has a nice online solving widget that shows you all the possible combinations for a given entry, if you don’t want to figure them out yourself. You only get access to one puzzle per day, unless you purchase their software (though they do have a trial version available for free).

KakuroPuzzle has a downloadable solving environment as well as printable puzzles; I haven’t tried the download though.

Kakuro.net also shows you the combinations if you request them, but doesn’t seem to have any method of “penciling in” multiple possibilities for a cell while you’re working. The site allows you to generate a large number of puzzles in three different sizes and three different difficulty levels.

Based on my initial experiences, I like KakuroConquest the best of those I’ve found so far. It has the easiest method for penciling-in that I’ve found — If you type more than one number in a cell, they shrink; when you erase all but one, it becomes the entry in the cell. They seem to have a large number of puzzles available at several difficulty levels as well. They also have a FaceBook applet, so you can challenge your friends.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2008 2:56 pm

    Following the Kakuro label link in WordPress brought this post about Killer Sudoku to my attention. Way Cool! This is not the first time I’ve stumbled across the 360 blog. Guess I should keep my eye (and GoogleReader) on that one. 🙂

  2. Alane Tentoni permalink
    March 12, 2008 8:09 am

    Ever since I picked up Sudoku, I’ve been saying that it’s more kin to graduate school math than anything in K-12. I think it’s great for their thinking skills. I can’t wait to try kakuro – thanks for the tip!

  3. March 12, 2008 7:36 pm

    Let me know what you think. I’m betting that you will enjoy it even more than Sudoku.

  4. May 1, 2008 8:44 am

    If you like kakuro, try this flash version.
    http://www.atksolutions.com/games/kakuro.html
    3 difficulty levels, pencilmarks, save feature.

  5. May 1, 2008 10:12 am

    One thing I don’t like about the Kakuro ATK version is that it is not easy to modify the pencil marks. So as I rule out the penciled in possibilities one by one, I can’t seem to just erase them. I have to clear the square, and then re-enter the rest of the possibilities.

    This version also immediately shows you when you have a mistake (sum that doesn’t add up, or I think also repeated digits will trigger it). It would be nice to have a “hard” mode without that feedback for those who prefer to play without it.

    If you do play this version, be aware that if you want to turn off the sound effects, you seem to have to do it from the main screen. There doesn’t seem to be a way to do it from the game screen.

  6. May 10, 2008 12:22 pm

    To erase one pencilmark at a time without clearing the entire square first, simply select (or type) the same digit in the box with the pencilmark turned on. For example, if a square has pencilmarks 1234, to erase the digit 3, simply select (or type) the number 3 with the pencilmark turned on. The box will then change to say 124. Also to toggle pencil marks using the keyboard use the “Caps Lock”.

  7. June 12, 2008 7:25 pm

    A very belated thank you for the nice comment above!

    It’s funny, I love Sudoku and can solve some of the hardest ones but just haven’t been able to get into Kakuro. For some reason it feels really difficult to me, and I’ve yet to solve a single puzzle. (Insert embarrassed face here.) I need those ones for grades 2-4 that you’re looking for and then maybe I’ll get past that block! I really like the Killer Sudoku, though, because if I get stuck with Kakuro techniques I can switch to Sudoku ones.

  8. Jenn permalink
    May 10, 2009 8:08 pm

    Thanks so much for these links. I’m a student teacher, with some grade 6 students who always finish before everyone else, and need an extra challenge. I think they’ll enjoy this stuff. Thanks!

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