Exploring the creepy remaines of a ruined castle, you take a wrong step and slide down a chute into darkness. The chute ends in a hole, and you are dropped unceremoniously onto a pile of hay. Finding your trusty flashlight, you find yourself in an underground labyrinth, with no idea where you are, and no way to climb back up to the hole in the ceiling you just fell through. Fortunately you never leave home without a few useful things in your backpack, and taking stock of your supplies you find:

Rather than wander around aimlessly, you decide that you need a Plan. Furthermore, you realize that even if you find your way out of the maze, others may fall into the same chute and find themselves here, and that they may benefit from some help.

Step 1

Your teacher will assign you to a teams. Working with your teammates, write easy-to-follow rules that will eventually lead to the exit of the maze (assuming it even has an exit...) that you could write down and leave behind for others to find before you wander away from the starting point.

In other words, these directions should work for any maze, not just this one.

Here is an example of what "directions" might look like:

  1. Pick a passageway and start walking down it.
  2. If you come to an intersection, flip the nickel:
    1. If it comes up heads, take the left-most choice
    2. If it comes up tails, take the right-most choice.
  3. If you come to a dead-end, turn around.
  4. If you are still in the maze, go back to Step #2

Step 2

Swap instructions with another team in the class.small-maze.jpg It's ok to do multiple swaps, as long as you end up with instructions that aren't your own.

Read through the instructions carefully and then, being the fiendish masterminds you are, design a maze in which those instructions would not work. Yes, that's right, try to devise a maze that traps anybody following this other team's instructions.

Draw your maze on paper, and indicate the starting point. It must be possible to escape the maze, just not with the instructions the other team wrote.

When everybody is done, return all instructions to their owners. Now try to improve your instructions so that they solve this new maze.

Step 3

Compare your instructions to those of other teams. How are they the same? Different? Can you work together as a class to come up with one "best" set of instructions? Some advanced activities to try: Can you write instructions to eliminate dead-ends? That is, anybody following the instructions should never retrace their own steps. Can you write instructions to find the shortest path out of any maze?