Seven Quick Riddles to Exercise Your Working Memory and Attention

How healthy is your working memory? Would you like to train it and make it a little more agile? We're going to suggest a number of small challenges in the form of riddles for you to test yourself.
Seven Quick Riddles to Exercise Your Working Memory and Attention
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 21 March, 2023

“What’s so delicate that just saying its name breaks it?” This is a riddle. They’re mental challenges that challenge your ingenuity and, in turn, surprise you with their simplicity. They’re resources that activate multiple cognitive processes, the kinds that you often don’t use as much as you should.

Life isn’t a puzzle to be solved, but a path along which you let yourself go, acting almost on automatic pilot. However, this could be one of your biggest problems. That’s because, as a human being, you need to be agile in aspects such as your attention, critical thinking, memory, and creativity. It’s how you face adversity and also avoid being manipulated.

One significant benefit of riddles is in promoting healthier aging. That said, they’re not miraculous. For example, they can’t prevent the appearance of dementia. However, any practice that favors maintaining a curious and skillful mind, in terms of cognitive skills, will help you cope much better with the passing of time.

We suggest you train two of your key areas: your working memory and attention. So, we’re going to give you a few riddles to boost these processes.

“What is the hardest task in the world? To think.”

-Ralph W. Emerson-

Man thinking of quick riddles
Memory-focused puzzles should be exercised from an early age.

Exercise your mind when you’re young and you’ll age better

It’s important to think outside the box. This means escaping from your usual kind of thinking and letting your mind venture down paths that you haven’t explored before.

As it occurs on the physical plane, exercise keeps you in shape. The University of Virginia (USA) conducted some really interesting research on cognitive exercise and aging. They discovered that our cognitive functions will only remain in good condition if we lead an active life in this respect, from when we’re young.

This means you must acquire, not only active physical habits but also mental kinds. As the psychologist and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman states, we must face the worst disease of our time: cognitive laziness.

Those who do not know how to think outside the box quickly give up when faced with problems and challenges. On the other hand, those who apply innovative thinking come up with solutions that no one else has been able to figure out.

The importance of attention and working memory

The riddles that we’re going to suggest seek to train your working memory and attention. The purpose of exercising these two competencies is multiple. Working memory is a type of short-term memory. Its function is to allow you to manipulate and temporarily store information so that you can undertake sophisticated cognitive tasks.

It’s thanks to your working or operational memory that you understand information and what you read, as well as carry out tasks of analysis, logic, and deduction. However, you couldn’t carry these tasks out without the attentional component. Attention is the muscle that makes it easy to focus all your cognitive energies on a specific task, without distractions.

The psychologist, Robert J. Sternberg, is recognized for his studies in intelligence. He also highlights the usefulness of riddles for these purposes. He defined them in Psychology Today as the ability to compare the information we already have in our memories and transform it into new ideas.

In the riddles that we’re going to propose, you don’t need to offer any ingenious answers. You just need to exercise some mental gymnastics to test your memory and cognitive agility.

When you try to solve a puzzle, you put multiple cognitive processes into action. For instance, your memory, attention, and innovative thinking. It’s the kind of reasoning that ends with an “Aha!” or “Eureka!”

Woman thinking of quick riddles
To solve fast-working memory riddles, you must pay a great deal of attention.

Quick riddles: fuel and mental gymnastics for your brain

The puzzles to solve below test your ability to keep information in mind while handling different data units. They’re not easy. They’re tasks that require three elements: to be fast, attentive, and resist frustration.

Read each riddle and try to solve it in the shortest possible time.

1. Question of numbers

Look at this number for five seconds: 798023. Keep it in your memory and then, without looking, add the first and last numbers. Subtract the penultimate digit from the number you get.

2. What’s around you

This riddle is quite challenging. Look around you and do the following in as little time as possible. You need to find:

  • Five objects that fit in your pockets.
  • A yellow object that ends in a consonant.
  • Four objects that have something red on them and that contain the letter A.

3. Magical birthdays

Think about your birthday and then add all the figures (day, month, year). Now, think of one of the most significant people in your life. Visualize their birthday, and do the same. Next, add the two results obtained, that of your birthday and your loved one.

4. The months of the year

Would you be able to say the months of the year starting from the end? This is one of the most common speed riddles and one that requires, naturally, that you do it in the shortest possible time.

5. Search for meaning

Read and retain the letters that make up the nonsense word, AMLOARTPIN. Now, without looking, try to create five terms that do have meaning.

6. Upside down

This puzzle can be rather complex. It consists of spelling each day of the week backward. For instance, Monday would be YadnoM.

7. Clock

What time is it? Look at it on your watch or your cell phone. Remember it and divide it by two. Then, add the number 20. Were you able to do it without using a pencil and paper? That’s the key, having a mind that’s capable of operating quickly.


Quick riddles can help you stay mentally sharp by encouraging you to play with different interpretations and perspectives. Indeed, attention and memory are the pillars on which your intelligence and adaptability are based. So make sure you put this much-needed mental exercise into practice.

By the way, the thing that’s so delicate that you can break it just by saying its name is silence.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Davidson, J. E. (2003). Insights about insightful problem solving. In J. E. Davidson & R. J. Sternberg (Eds.), The psychology of problem solving (pp. 149–175). Cambridge University Press.
  • Fafrowicz, M., Ceglarek, A., Olszewska, J. et al. Dynamics of working memory process revealed by independent component analysis in an fMRI study. Sci Rep 13, 2900 (2023).
  • Salthouse, T. A. (2006). Mental Exercise and Mental Aging: Evaluating the Validity of the “Use It or Lose It” Hypothesis. Perspectives on Psychological Science1(1), 68–87.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.