They can do it too

A web application that’s having its moment in the spotlight right now is Wordle.

The concept is pretty simple. You have to guess a five letter word and you have up to six guesses. If you guess a letter in the correct spot, the spot where the letter is turns green; if you guess a letter but it’s not in the correct spot; the spot where the letter is turns yellow.

The coloured spots are used as clues to zero in on the correct answer. You get one such puzzle a day. It’s as simple as that. There’s no log in to get there and you’re not playing against anyone else – unless you want to. There is an option to share your results on social media, email, etc.

Today was a good day for me as I solved it in three turns. This isn’t the norm, believe me.

Wordle 212 3/6

⬛⬛🟩🟨⬛
⬛🟨🟩⬛🟩
🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩

You can play the game yourself by clicking here. A complete explanation of the game and information about the designer can be found here.

Now, you’ve just got to know that I hang around with a pretty nerdy group of educators online and there has been discussion like you wouldn’t believe (or maybe you would) about strategies, reverse engineering, tips for winning, and even offers of open source dictionaries if you wanted to write your own.

As I got involved with the discussion, it reminded me that I had given a problem similar to this as a programming assignment years ago. It wasn’t the same; more like a combination of Wheel of Fortune, Lingo, or Mastermind.

At the time, we hadn’t worked with arrays which seems like an interesting approach but we had worked with strings and had mastered all kinds of things with them like coding/decoding messages, etc. Moving on to this type of game was a natural and motivating for the students. They enjoyed writing games and playing each other’s implementation of them. The key was just to not remind them that such programming was good for them.

So, a typical game might play like:

Solve this

********

Guess an “O”

*o*****

Guess an “E”

*o***e*e

You get the concept. Different students would have different interfaces and that just made it more fun. We didn’t so anything as sophisticated as check to see if a word was in the dictionary because, quite frankly, I didn’t think of it at the time. Now that I know where to get one, I’d up the ante for sure.

Wordle as we’re playing it on the web right now has inspired programmers to write their own application to play the game and that’s kind of cool. Computer Science teachers are borrowing great ideas all the time.

This certainly would be one to borrow today. Maybe even create a TikTok video to advertise afterwards?

Back to the original game and thinking about the others like Wheel of Fortune, you know that there are strategies for solution. Of course, my students would work on strategies as well. They’re nothing but competitive. Like you’d never use an X or something. Great clues come from vowels. I’m sure that there is some sort of psychological explanation. I know that when I play Wordle, I’ll start with AUDIO or ADIEU which often gets me off to a great start.

What about you? Alfred Thompson had written a couple of thoughts on the topic.

Do you have a story about your personal use of Wordle or maybe how you would use it in the classroom? I’m sure it would be a great story to share for others to learn from.