Tournament of Minds


On Sunday 2nd March, ISB hosted the Bangkok Final of the Tournament of Minds. Around 200 students from ten different international schools came to compete in this creative, open-ended, team problem-solving competition, including three teams representing ISB.

As education has changed to include more emphasis on ‘21st century skills’, so too have academic competitions. More and more research is pointing to the importance of non-cognitive factors like grit and persistence in achieving success, and a recent article in the Huffington Post suggested that “…future leaders will need to work together, to persist through setbacks, to bring new knowledge creatively to novel situations, and to have the empathy to listen to others and be receptive to new ideas” (Deards and Coulianos, 2014). Coincidentally, these are exactly the skills that participation in Tournament of Minds aims to develop.

On Tournament Day, the teams were required to participate in the two Challenge areas that make up Tournament of Minds – The Long Term Challenge and the Spontaneous Challenge. Teams have been working on their Long Term Challenge, in either the Language Literature or Math Engineering disciplines, for six weeks prior to Tournament Day. They then presented their solution, within a 10 minute dramatic performance, in front of a panel of judges and an appreciative audience. The Spontaneous Challenge is a previously unseen ‘on the spot’ challenge. Teams are required to think quickly and creatively as they are allowed only a short time to give their response.

In the Language Literature challenge, teams were required to create a picture book of no more than 12 pages, featuring two characters sourced from different texts on a prescribed list, and incorporating one of a given list of key concepts. Additionally, in their presentation, they were required to identify the intended audience of the book, explain the author’s inspiration, and find a creative way to present their story.

The Math Engineering challenge required teams to build a device, based on a swinging or rotating (but not rolling) part, that could be adjusted to make a particular sound only at exactly chosen times. In their presentation, they needed to create a context for demonstrating their device, explain the importance of the sound and the event at which the sound is made.

With such challenging tasks, time management during the six-week preparation time is crucial, and this presented an additional obstacle this year, as many schools were disrupted because of the protests, missing out on vital practice sessions. Like adults in the workplace, students quickly realized that working in a team presents its own unique challenges, and that considerable amounts of patience, empathy and appreciation of others’ ideas is essential to reaching a consensus. However, all of the teams rose to the occasion and on Sunday were able to demonstrate some exemplary teamwork, ingenuity, creativity and design thinking. The volunteer judges and audience of parents, teachers and other supporters were treated to imaginative presentations including pendulums, dominoes, beans, marbles, balloons, two metre tall picture books, pop-up books, puppets, singing, dancing, miming … and twerking donkeys!

ISB were represented by three teams in the competition. The Elementary Math Engineering team included Vera, Zoe, Talha, Grand, Angus, Prang and Alex who have been working enthusiastically all semester to prepare for their first experience in Tournament of Minds. The Middle School Math Engineering team of Ahmed, Faisel, Sarah, Som-O and William gave the audience one of the most humorous performances of the day, and the Middle School Language Literature team of Sophie, Mackenzie, Janita, Elly, Guy and Elyas took out First Place in the Secondary division with their problem-solving performance and phenomenal effort. Well done to all of the teams.

In addition to these students, a volunteer ‘press corps’ of Middle School students Daiki, Mia, Helena and Samuel were busy capturing all the action and excitement of the event, and worked hard to produce the video above for the final awards presentation on the day. Enjoy.


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