10th June 2005 at 01:00
Teachers pore over Su Doku while their pupils weave 'scooby-dos'. Bill Hicks investigates the latest fads

Continuing the occasional theme of 1,001 things you can do with the TES forums, this week we will look at their invaluable role in the tracking of fads and fashions.

Let's take a recent fad - Su Doku - bung it into our forums search, and see what happens. A quick search reveals that our first glancing reference to this addictive Japanese number puzzle came on December 3, 2004. Teachers were discussing end-of-term presents, and one of them, grimbo, fancied something personal, but "failing that, I can never get enough Biros". Then added: "Green or purple please. Red is hard to look at on Su-Doku puzzles or The Times crossword."

Notice the hyphen, which has since largely disappeared. This reminds me - you have to search under all the alternative spellings of any craze, and second-guess any likely misspellings.

So, I searched on permutations of su, so, do, du and ku. The next sighting was in mid-January. Zsa zsa seemed to have had enough of sudoku already:

"I've done The Times Sudoku puzzles and Puzzlemaker and of course TES Brainteasers - but has anyone come across anything else, please?"

After that, nothing until mid-March, when Su Doku puzzles were shedding egghead status and popping up in the tabloids. Some teachers were beginning to explore their classroom potential: "I gave some simple ones to my Year 7s to do after they had finished a test. They looked so stressed with them, I felt sorry for the poor kids. I told them if they really couldn't do it then they could draw on the back."

Others were getting seriously hooked: dydx confessed to "searching out the next puzzle like some crazy addict". Su Doku were even blamed for the absence of several regular posters from the forums, leading to this plea from fishandchips: "You have to remember that TES is also good for the brain!"

Judging from the postings, Su Doku peaked in May - just as we witnessed the first flurry of mystified postings about a new youth craze: the plaiting of coloured plastic string known as "scoobies" or "scooby-dos".

Oharaf wondered if scoobies were "a Bradford thing", but bananabunch confirmed: "We have them here in Brum too!" WD assured us they had already "swept through" north Kent, but bretticus reported blank looks from students in the deep south. We heard opalfeet's authoritative statement on May 22: "The craze started last week in Lincolnshire."

By May 31 they had also reached Bridlington, and we have to thank crabwood for this newsflash: "We just took scoubidous to Palestine as part of our school twinning - the children insisted it was part of our 'what we do at playtime' pack!"

So, there you have it. Two fads well tracked. We could draw a map, couldn't we? But let's not.

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website. www.tes.co.ukstaffroom

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