Alien Encounter

Puzzles and Aliens go together like tribbles and replication and method acting – a great mix of challenge and “What if” involved.  If you are looking for another quick, fun challenge.  As you’ll note, this is as far away from real world as it gets, and sometimes, somedays, we’ve just got to go there to exercise out imaginations.

Try this one posted on I-Tunes University: a  Math Challenge from the University of Warwick called Alien Encounter


  1. I-Tunes video of the challenge.
  2. Students and their active brains

This could be a good small group (3-4) student challenge.  The main focus is not just what the answer is, but how they went about solving the answer.  Groups should be prepared to show their work and explain their reasoning.

Set Up:

The background of the challenge is: Two explores land on a distant planet where there are two identical looking races creatures: the verasiturs (they respond truthfully to questions) and the gibberish (they always lie in response to questions).  As the explores make their way on the planet, three identical looking aliens come welcome them.  The explores name them Alphie, Betty and Gemma.  So the explorers ask three questions –

  1. They ask Alphie, “To which race does Betty belong?” Alphie answers, “Gibberish.”
  2. They ask Betty, “Do Alphie and Gemma belong to different races?”  Alphie answers, “No.”
  3. They ask Gemma, “To which race does Betty belong?”  Gemma answers, “Verasitur”

Ask the group to have one or more people take notes as the activity begins.  (Students may want to rotate this).

Pose The Challenge:

“What race does each of the aliens belong to?  How can you tell?”

Encourage students to make diagrams in groups to try to parse out the solutions to this challenge.

How can they test their solution?

Have the note taker(s) document the discussion and tests. A critical part about this challenge is the set up and encouraging students to keep solutions focused and to persist in the process – learning as they go along.  If they have interesting ideas and reasons for trying a solution, that is very important.

There are always many methods to arriving at a solution.  This is a main focus of this activity – have students in groups try to solve a puzzle, and then reflect on an walk us through their process of problem solving.  They might also explore roles of the group – who kept them on staff? Who

One the solution posted by the University of Warwick is also on I-Tunes.


  1. Why do people lie? Write a journal entry about the many varied reasons that people lie.  Circle those that you thing are justifiable reasons to lie.
  2. Write a journal entry about how an alien would describe your room if they beamed down from a distant planet. What conclusions would they draw?

Solution to Alien Challenge



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