How Towers of Hanoi Teaches Critical Thinking Skills

The Towers of Hanoi is a well known executive function task that targets working memory, inhibition, and decision making. Our digital adaptation is a user favorite while working on critical thinking skills. In this blog post, we share with you how the Towers of Hanoi teaches critical thinking skills to your client. 

The Task

Like the classic neuropsychological task, your client is shown with several rings of different sizes and colors and three rungs. Your client will see a target configuration at the top right corner of the screen. Your client’s task is to move the rings on each rung to match the desired configuration in as few moves as possible. As the level increase in difficulty, so does the number of rings. 

This exercise is fully adaptable by changing the following aspects: 

  1. becomes challenging for your client by introducing a set number of moves to make
  2. the number of rings to manipulate
  3. the amount of time to solve the problem
  4. limiting the number of tries they have to solve the problem 
  5.  the number of configurations they must solve

How does the Towers of Hanoi exercise teach critical thinking skills?

To complete the Towers of Hanoi successfully, your client must do 5 things:

1. Understand the problem

In each set, your patient must identity:

  1. the desired configuration
  2. the spatial relations between the different ring arrangements
  3. How many rings must they move to accomplish the goal 

2. Look at the big picture

You patient will have to explore the big picture and understand the desired configuration. They cannot just jump into the exercise without looking ahead. This will encourage them to mindful of the rules they must follow while completing the task. 

3. Make a plan

After understanding the problem and the big picture. Your patient will have to dissect the steps they need to take to solve the problem and reach the desired configuration.

4. Take action and keep track

While taking action and moving the rings to different rungs, they must keep track of the steps that they have taken. They must anticipate beforehand and reflect upon each move’s consequences.  

5. Learn

Think about what approaches and moves worked. Reflect upon what actions did not work. Help your client think about how these strategies may apply to different situations in their life, such as taking on a project at work, completing an assignment for school, or planning a social event.


While solving the Towers of Hanoi exercise, your client is practicing numerous cognitive functions. Your patient will have to analyze the situation, interpret the task demands, control the desire to make impulsive decisions, and problem-solve to achieve the set goal. These are vital components of critical thinking that apply to many areas of life, such as work, schooling, social life, and family.


To facilitate the translation of the critical thinking skills practiced in this exercise, perform a bridging task with your client that requires them to apply these skills hands-on. Some possible bridging activities that will tap critical thinking skills include planning a dinner party with guests with specific dietary needs, examining a list of tasks that need to be completed, and deriving a way to complete them most efficiently. 

Dustin Luchmee

Dustin was HappyNeuron's Product Specialist. With research experience in stroke, Dustin learned how a stroke can change someone's life. He also learned how different kinds of therapists can work together to help a person get better. He is passionate about neuro-rehabilitation and finding the active ingredients for effective therapy.

Related Content in Cognitive Remediation,Digital Tools,HappyNeuron Pro,Occupational Therapy,Product Features

Recent Articles

HappyNeuron Pro Logo

Are you a therapist looking for Cognitive Stimulation tools for your patients?

Check out HappyNeuron Pro’s FREE Worksheets !