Brain Workout for Your Frontal Lobes

Your frontal lobes are home to your exec­u­tive func­tions, includ­ing pat­tern recog­ni­tion. Here’s a puz­zle to chal­lenge your abil­i­ty to uncov­er a pattern.

In this puz­zle, three num­bers: 16, 14, and 38, need to be assigned to one of the rows of num­bers below. To which row should each num­ber be assigned — A, B, or C?

A: 0 6 8 9 3
B: 5 13 2 10 16
C: 7 1 47 11 17

Why do we care about pat­tern recog­ni­tion skills? Well, if you’re an ath­lete, then you want to con­stant­ly improve your abil­i­ty to see spa­tial pat­terns on the court or field quick­ly so you can act on them — by pass­ing to open space or attack­ing the goal at the right moment. Stock traders look for pat­terns in the mar­ket behav­ior to guide them on buy­ing and sell­ing deci­sions. Chess mas­ters are experts at rec­og­niz­ing com­pli­cat­ed moves. Read­ing is also pat­tern recognition.

So, you use pat­tern recog­ni­tion all the time whether you know it or not. But remem­ber, using a skill is great, but you have to keep exer­cis­ing it a lit­tle bit hard­er each time to devel­op it further.

Have you solved the puz­zle yet? If not, here’s a hint:
It’s not a math­e­mat­i­cal prob­lem. The numer­i­cal val­ues are irrelevant.

Keep read­ing for the answer

The answer is that the num­bers are orga­nized by shape! Look at Row A — they are all round­ed shapes. Row C is all lin­ear shapes. And Row B is a mix of curves and lines. There­fore, 16 goes to B, 14 goes to C, and 38 goes to A.


PS: Enjoy these 50 brain teasers to test your cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty. Free, and fun for adults of any age!

Posted in


  1. jjj on October 9, 2007 at 10:49

    yea…I did this prob­lem in 7 sec­onds yet my IQ is 135. I guess that means …I have a good frontal lobe? 

    I am gen­er­aly cre­ative and can think of many pos­si­bil­i­ties to an answer…that is why I usu­al­ly do bad­ly on mul­ti­ple choice because I see pat­terns that are .…pos­si­ble, but not the ‘cor­rect’ ones.

  2. jjj on October 9, 2007 at 10:53

    the frontal lobe if it does­n’t cor­re­late with IQ must not have much relevence in today’s soci­ety? no, that would be wrong correct?

  3. Alvaro on October 9, 2007 at 10:16

    hel­lo jjj,

    1) It is great that you see cre­ative options (diver­gent think­ing). You just need to com­ple­ment that with con­ver­gent think­ing to ana­lyze alter­na­tives and select the most like­ly one.

    2) IQ is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent of intel­li­gence if you want to be an engi­neer or sim­i­lar quan­ti­ta­tive jobs. The frontal lobes allow you to under­stand your envi­ron­ment, adapt, set goals, plan, exe­cute your plans…so they are crit­i­cal for everything.

  4. Yomanda on November 29, 2007 at 4:14

    38 — a
    16 — b
    14 — c

  5. Julie on January 29, 2009 at 3:55

    I got the cor­rect answers, but for entire­ly dif­fer­ent rea­sons than stat­ed above in the ‘answer’.
    I assigned the num­bers (38,16,14) to let­ter rows already con­tain­ing both dig­its of the num­bers need­ing to be assigned.
    Did every­one else notice that?

  6. ab on March 11, 2009 at 2:12

    for some rea­son i just could not look at the numer­i­cal fig­ures and assign sim­i­lar­i­ties to them besides qual­i­ta­tive obser­va­tions… which left me very con­fused. i guess being a math major was work­ing against me

  7. rajesh on May 15, 2009 at 6:11

    @julie .…
    yes even i noticed the same thing…but some­how that pat­tern did­nt felt that convincing

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

Top Articles on Brain Health and Neuroplasticity

Top 10 Brain Teasers and Illusions


Subscribe to our e-newsletter

* indicates required

Got the book?