Mind Stretching Activities


Grade Level: 2nd grade and up

Teacher Presentation: Yes, however as a guide only
Student Activities: Yes
Lesson Time: varies, but usually at least 1/2 hour

Materials needed:
A copy of the brain teasers and answers, an overhead or chalk board on which to record students' guesses

These are brain teasers and are to be used to stretch the minds of your students. It is very much like a 20 questions game. This activity helps to build dendrites in your students brains as well as aiding them in making connections between things that had not been connected in their brains before. This is a great logical thinking activity, while the children get to be creative in their answers.

Present the children with the problem, as a whole class. They are able to ask questions in order to solve the situation. However, questions must be able to be answered in one of three ways, "Yes," "No," or "Not Important." On your overhead or chalkboard, make three columns with these answers as headings. As the children make guesses, record a summary of their question in the appropriate column. This helps children to remember and recall what has already been asked. Give as little clues as possible. Remind the kids that "No" is equally important an answer as "Yes" because it eliminates things. They will have a blast!



  1. A father and his son were driving one night and got into a terrible accident. The father was killed and the son badly injured. The son was rushed to the hospital emergency room where the doctor hurried in only to cry, "Oh no! That's my son!!" Why?
  2. John and Mary are lying dead on the floor of the apartment they live in. Surrounding them is broken glass and water. A breeze is blowing in the window. Explain that one.
  3. A lady is lying in bed and she is dead. Beside the bed is a pool of liquid and two pieces of wood. How did she die?
  4. When she stopped at the 5th floor, she knew her husband was dead. How did she know?
  5. A man was found hanged in a room that was completely bare except for a puddle of water beneath him. How did this happen?
  6. A man and his wife were driving in a car, when the wife's behavior caused him to stop the car and rush to the nearest house. When he returned to the car, he found his poor wife at death's door and there was a stranger in the car with her. When the police arrived, they did not arrest or even question the stranger. How come?
  7. Caleb Smathers was walking home from the market with three nice ripe cantaloupes, when he was faced with a problem. On the footbridge which he had to cross there was a sign announcing that the bridge's capacity was two hundred pounds. Caleb himself weighed a hundred ninety-six pounds and the cantaloupes weighed two pounds each. What to do. He could, of course, make two trips, but a moment's reflection enabled him to figure out a way of getting himself and his three cantaloupes across safely in one trip. How did he do it?
  8. Helen was expert at her job and always courteous. However, one day as she was going about her daily business she stepped through a door and forgot to count. Shortly thereafter she was dead. How come?
  9. At the end of World War II the few scattered members of a once-rich and important Central European family who had survived concentration camps managed to come together. The family fortune, although much diminished, was still of considerable size. In due course these few known survivors died and the courts began a search for a possible heir to the estate. Two candidates showed up, both claiming to be the same person - the only son of the last head of the family. Their stories were similar (each claimed to have been in slave-labor camps); their information on the family history was much the same; there was a superficial resemblance between them so that old acquaintances could not decide which was the true heir. The magistrate in charge of the case decided to interview them separately. To the first candidate the magistrate proposed a simple identity test. However, when the man readily agreed, the magistrate immediately said, "Arrest this man: he is an impostor. The other is the true heir." How come?
  10. Mr. Brown was spending the night in a hotel in a strange city. He had never been there before and didn't know a soul in the place (neither the hotel nor the city). He had great difficulty getting to sleep. Try as he would, sleep simply wouldn't come. He had a busy day ahead and wanted to be in good shape. He put in one telephone call - local, not long distance - and shortly thereafter he fell into peaceful slumber. How come?
  11. Mr. and Mrs. Northern were returning from a Saturday afternoon game of golf, when Mr. Northern stooped to pick up something from the ground. On seeing this Mrs. Northern quickly struck at the object in her husband's hand with her putter. She was dead in an instant. How come?
  12. When Johnny was four years old, he was sent on a railroad journey. A kindly, middle-aged man put him on the train, having made all arrangements, and entrusted him to the care of the authorities. There was no accident, Johnny was in perfect health, the authorities did all they could, yet Johnny was unable to reach his destination. How come?
  13. Two Americans met in broad daylight. In the sight of a number of people, one of them shot and killed the other. The killing was deliberate, the killer was not an officer of the law, nor was the victim a criminal. However, no legal action was taken. How come?
  14. Horace knew there was some risk in his undertaking, but he underestimated the need for experience. He had read a lot, seen the operation several times, but he had never actually been in charge. He made his big mistake when he pushed the piece of wood the wrong way. For almost immediately thereafter he was struck by a larger piece of wood, and not long afterwards he was dead. How come?
  15. A murder was committed. The court acted largely on the evidence of the one eyewitness, and the murder was apprehended and brought to trial. The jury brought in a verdict of "Guilty," but recommended extreme clemency. The judge dismissed the case and the murder went free. How come?
  16. The captain could see the other ship very clearly on the horizon, and so could the members of the crew who were on deck. But when the captain asked his radar officer to check its position, the officer said, "Sir, there isn't another ship within 4 hundred miles of us." He was quite correct in his statement, but he was ill-advised to laugh at the captain's protest, for the captain had him put in the brig instantly for insubordination. How come?
  17. Jane bought a dozen electric light bulbs as a present for her friend, Edith. To make sure there were duds among them, she tested them all and found all of them perfect. She wrapped them up and presented them to her friend. But Edith, after examining her gift, took them back to the store, where they had been bought and indignantly demanded a new dozen or a refund of the money. The storekeeper laughed in her face. How come?
  18. For many years old Sam Hawks had been night watchman at the Phoenixville National Bank. He was well liked for the faithful performance of his duty and for his cheerful manner. One evening Mr. Stuart, president of the bank, came to the bank at eight o'clock, greeted old Sam, and explained that he was going in to get some papers from his office, for he'd been called to the city and planned to take the ten o'clock plane.

    As Sam listened to his employer's words, his honest face puckered anxiously. "Don't take that plane, please, Mr. Stuart," he said earnestly.

    "Why, Sam," exclaimed the banker, touched by the old fellow's sincerity, and obvious distress. "Why not? What do you mean?"

    "Oh, Mr. Stuart," said Sam, "I had a dream about that plane last night. I saw it crash to earth and all the people aboard were killed. There was a terrible explosion and - Oh, it was awful!" The poor man was almost in tears.

    The bank president patted his arm and, to quiet him, said, "Thank you, Sam. I'll see about it," and proceeded into the bank to get his papers.

    Despite the old man's warning Mr. Stuart DID take the plane, and you'll be relieved to know, there was no accident. Returning to Phoenixville, the bank president's first action was to fire the night watchman, Sam. How come?

  19. A man, going about his daily occupation, brushed against a rock and tore his sleeve. A few minutes later he was dead. How come?
  20. When Mr. and Mrs. Greene returned to their upper East Side apartment in New York after a night at the opera, they were horrified to find the scene that met their eyes in their handsome living room There were Sam and Luella, completely naked! Luella was on the floor, dead: Sam was asleep on the sofa. How come?
  21. A man walks into a bar and asks for a glass of water. The bartender then pulls out a gun and points it at the man. The man then says, "Thank you," and leaves. How come?
  22. A man is lying face down in the middle of a desert and he is dead. He had on his back a pack that is full of all the provisions needed for survival in the desert. How did he die?
  23. A man is lying dead in an alley surrounded by 52 bicycles. How did he die?
  24. There is a man who lives on the 25th floor of the apartment building. Each day he goes to work and takes the elevator down to the lobby. When he comes home, some days he takes the elevator all the way up to the 25th floor. But on other days he only goes up to the 20th floor and walks up the stairs the rest of the way. Why?
  25. A man is asleep downstairs. He hears a crash and runs upstairs and turns on a light. He looks out the window, and immediately kills himself. How come?
  26. A man gets in his car, turns on the radio and kills himself. Why?
  27. Two men in a cabin in the woods are dead from the same cause. Both were in good health, had no quarrel with each other, were in possession of no firearms and no person, animal or disease was involved in their death. How d they die?
  28. A man is lying dead and naked in a desert near a burnt match. Why? (variation on your #22)
  29. A man goes to a restaurant, orders albatross, takes one bite, leaves the restaurant and shoots himself. Why?



  1. The doctor was the son's mother.
  2. John and Mary are goldfish. A cat came in through the window and tipped their bowl over and on to the floor.
  3. A poison popsicle.
  4. The elevator stopped because of a power failure. Upstairs in her apartment her husband was attached to an iron lung or some similar device. Enough said.
  5. He hanged himself by standing on a block of ice.
  6. The stranger was a new born baby.
  7. He juggled the cantaloupes.
  8. She was a parachutist, and didn't pull the rip cord in time.
  9. The proposed identity test was a simple blood-test type. The magistrate knew that the true heir would never have agreed to such a test, since the family in question were well known to be carriers of a hemophilia strain, and that for a hemophiliac (or bleeder) even a small scratch is a terrifying, and potentially fatal, prospect.
  10. He couldn't go to sleep because the man next door snored. Brown rang the night clerk, who telephoned the snorer's room and woke him up. When the noise stopped, Mr. Brown had no trouble in dozing off.
  11. The object was a live wire. Mrs. Northern in her effort to protect her husband (who, by the way, was beyond all earthly aid, having been electrocuted the moment his hand toughed the lethal object), forgot that her putter was made of steel. So she, too, was electrocuted.
  12. Johnny was a little goat, and he had eaten his tag.
  13. This took place during the Civil War, or as some prefer to call it, the War Between the States. The principals of our story were a Union soldier and a Confederate soldier.
  14. Horace did not know how to swim when he took a small sailboat out alone for the first time. A brisk breeze blew up. Wishing to change his direction, he tried to tack, but he pushed the tiller the wrong way. The boat jibbed, the boom swung round and knocked him overboard, and he was drowned.
  15. The murder and the eyewitness were Siamese twins, and one could not be punished without involving his innocent brother. Incidentally should the questions proceed to the point of asking if the murder and the eyewitness were identical twins, this answer is immaterial since Siamese twins many or may not be identical twins.
  16. The captain thought he knew all about mirages at sea, but did not know that they will sometimes reflect one's own ship. This was the case, but the captain refused to believe his radar officer and disciplined him for what he considered his impertinence. There was just such a case in our own Navy just a few yeas ago.
  17. They were flash bulbs which, as you know, can be used only once. Jane, who was no photographer, used them up when she tested them.
  18. Night watchmen have no business dreaming at night. They're supposed to keep awake on duty.
  19. He was a deep sea diver. Obviously, when the fabric of his suit was torn, the water rushed in and drowned him.
  20. Sam was a dog who had overturned the fish bowl in which Luella, the goldfish, lived. Luella, poor thing, had gasped her last on the floor, while Sam, unaware - or heedless - of the enormity of his misdeed, was quietly sleeping. If Sam had been a cat, it is unlikely that Luella's body would ever have been found.
  21. The man had the hiccups.
  22. He was a sky diver and thought it was a parachute.
  23. The 52 bicycles are "Bicycle Playing Cards". There was a full deck plus one ace. The man was caught cheating at poker and his opponent shot him.
  24. The man is a midget. He can reach the lobby button so he goes all the way down in the morning. But he can only reach as high as the 20th floor button; so unless someone happens to be in the elevator with him to push the 25th floor button, he must walk the last five floors.
  25. The man lives in a lighthouse. The light he turned on was the spotlight, which he forgot to turn on before he went to sleep. The crash was a boat on the shore. He felt so badly about it, he killed himself.
  26. He's a radio disc jockey who has just killed his wife. His alibi was the tape he left playing at the radio station, but when he turned the radio on, he heard nothing - in despair, he killed himself.
  27. It was the cabin of an airplane that just crashed.
  28. He was trying to make it across the desert in a hot air balloon, first by lightening his load, then frantically trying to relight his flame, then instead of dying of dehydration, chose to jump out of the balloon and die on impact.
  29. This one's goofy, but it makes sense. The man was stranded on a desert island with himself, his wife and a stranger. One day, the stranger came to him telling him his wife had been killed by wild animals on the other side of the island. That evening, the stranger made dinner for the man out of an albatross that he had found. After the man was rescued, on suspicion, he went to a restaurant and ordered albatross, tasted it, realized that he had eaten his wife on the island and committed suicide.


Teacher Notes
These Brain Teasers have nothing to do with chemistry but I acquired them a year ago and thought that I'd pass them along.  They are very good for stimulating thought! Teasers 26-29 were contributed by David Patrick Watts
Questions? Comments??