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HurkleQuest, the Game

"The Hurkle is a happy beast that lives in another galaxy on a planet named Lirht that has three moons. Hurkles are favorite pets of the Gwik, the most intelligent denizens of Lirht."

Paraphrased from "The Hurkle Is a Happy Beast," a story by Theodore Sturgeon, science fiction hall-of-fame author who lived in Eugene, Oregon.

HurkleQuest is a search-and-find, play-by-email game run by game masters called "The Hurkle Hiders", and played by teams of teachers and their students, grades 1-6.

Hurkle hides in an interesting place such as a whole number on the number line, a grid point in Quadrant 1, a grid point in Quadrants 1–4, a town in Oregon, a state in the USA, a location on Mars, et cetera, et cetera.

The Hurkle Hiders send email invitations to play HurkleQuest by email.

Players guess Hurkle's hiding place, typically three guesses each turn, and send their guesses by email.

The Hurkle Hiders send a color clue for each guess:

  • RED: very hot, very close to Hurkle's hiding place.
  • ORANGE: hot, close to Hurkle's hiding place, but not as close as RED.
  • YELLOW: warm, not as close as RED or ORANGE, but closer than GREEN.
  • GREEN: cool, not as close as YELLOW, ORANGE, or RED, but closer than BLUE.
  • BLUE: cold, far from Hurkle's hiding place, but closer than VIOLET.
  • VIOLET: very cold, very far from Hurkle's hiding place.

The players keep on sending guesses and the Hurkle Hiders keep on sending color clues until all teams have found Hurkle's hiding place.

Much ado about HurkleQuest is posted at

  • Go to [1] and search for 'hurklequest'

Hurkle and Cognitive Development

Cognitive development is a broad and deep field of research and practice. All preservice teachers learn something about the stage theory developed by Piaget: sensorimotor, preoperational, concert operations, and formal operations.

More modern research on the stage theory of cognitive development has refined and expanded Piaget's work, and current stage theories have a much larger number of steps or stages. Precollege teachers who work over several grade levels recognize the cognitive differences between younger and older children that are relatively independent of acquaintance of specific topics that they have studied.

In addition, teachers at a specific grade level recognize major differences in the cognitive developmental levels of their students. What they are seeing is more or different than just differences in IQ.

Some significant research and implementation work has been done on developing instructional materials that are both appropriate to the cognitive developmental level of students and are designed to increase their level of cognitive development. It appears that more of this type of activity has gone on in Europe than in the United States.

At the current time in the United States, there is a very large emphasis on preparing students for the type of state and national tests that can be machine scored. Questions on such tests are designed so they (typically) have just one right answer and the questions do not probe into the thinking (and the cognitive development needed) to answer the questions. It is time consuming, costly, and often quite challenging to adequately grade open ended questions and the types of questions where a student gets partial credit or perhaps nearly full credit even though an answer produced is incorrect due to an error in arithmetic.

Hurkle is an intellectually challenging game that can be played by students over quite a range of ages (and IQs and levels of cognitive development). Thus, it can be used can be used in informal and more formal observations and studies of student cognitive development.

Bob Albrecht runs Hurkle games via email with groups (classrooms) of students of varying grade level. Thus, he has the opportunity to see differences in whole group or whole class performance over different grade levels.

His informal "action research" data gathering and analysis show a clear pattern of improved whole group and whole performance with increasing grade level. One can conjecture that this improved performance comes from an increasing level of cognitive development, rather than from increased learning of the various curriculum areas the students are studying.

However, we need to be careful about jumping to such a conclusion. Consider the issue of IQ and of Intelligence of the students. IQ is artificially normed in a manner that tends to keep a student's IQ relatively constant over the years. However, a student's intelligence is increasing significantly over the years. The human brain does not reach full maturity until approximately 25 to 27 years of age.

Thus, one might conjecture that the increasing Hurkle performance level with increasing student grade level comes from increasing intelligence, increasing cognitive development, or other changes. Thus, there are some interesting areas for potential research.

In addition, what about the issue of transfer of learning from playing Hurkle to doing other intellectual and problem-solving activities?

Additional Background Material

History of Hurkle

Variations on Hurkle

Educational Uses and Value of Hurkle

Running a Game

The Idea of a Game Master

Adults as Game Masters

Students as Game Masters


1. Play Together, Learn Together [2] Scroll down to links that begin with "HurkleQuest."

2. Go to [3] and search for "hurklequest."

Author or Authors

The original version of this page was written by Bob Albrecht with the encouragement of David Moursund.