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1-2-3 Puzzle

This 1-2-3 Puzzle challenges you to arrange the four pieces to create each of the digits 1, 2, and 3. Pieces can be rotated, but they cannot be flipped or overlapped.

1-2-3 puzzle

Source of Puzzle

This puzzle is an adaptation of the 1-2-3 Transforming Puzzle in Serhiy Grabarchuk’s The Simple Book of Not-So-Simple Puzzles.

Any puzzle book from the Grabarchuk family is a winner! I have used so many of their brilliantly designed puzzles with my students over the past six years.

1-2-3 puzzle

In Serhiy’s original puzzle, the puzzler is provided with the diagrams of the digits 1, 2, and 3 and asked to divide each number into four shapes which can be rearranged to form the other two numbers.

This seemed a bit challenging for my students, so I decided to change the puzzle up and give my students the four pieces and challenge them to recreate the numbers 1, 2, and 3 using the given pieces.

1-2-3 puzzle

Puzzle Instructions

Arrange the four pieces to create each of the digits 1, 2, and 3 as drawn on the puzzle board. The pieces can be rotated, but they cannot be flipped or overlapped.

1-2-3 puzzle

I printed my puzzle pieces with a dark outline so the puzzler can tell which side of the puzzle piece should be facing up.

Using the Puzzle in the Classroom

Since I wanted to use this puzzle as my Puzzle of the Week, I added ceramic disc magnets to the back of each of the four pieces. These magnets are strong enough that they will stick to the whiteboard even when placed on top of the 1-2-3 Puzzle board when printed on 11 x 17 cardstock.

1-2-3 puzzle

I hung the puzzle board on my dry erase board using magnetic clips.

1-2-3 puzzle

This puzzle is SUBSTANTIALLY easier than many of the puzzles that I have used with students in the past. But I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

1-2-3 puzzle partially solved

It’s been fun this week to watch students tackle the puzzle a digit at a time. Often a student will solve the one puzzle and leave the solution on the board.

Along will come a different student who will solve the two puzzle. As the day progressed, I was able to watch the puzzle pieces dance across the puzzle board.

I did really like this aspect of the puzzle in that if a student left the puzzle partially solved, it did not discourage students later in the day from tackling the puzzle like sometimes happens.

If you are worried that this puzzle might be TOO easy for students, you could make it a competition to see how long it takes students to solve all three puzzles.

Printing and Prepping the Puzzle

This puzzle was designed to print on 11 x 17 cardstock. If you do not have access to the ability to print on 11 x 17 paper, a letter-sized version has also been uploaded.

1-2-3 puzzle

You will need to trim and glue the two pages together to form the puzzle board.

The puzzle pieces are designed to print on letter-sized paper no matter whether you print the puzzle board on 11 x 17 paper or 8.5 x 11 paper.

Optional: If you plan on using it as a magnetic puzzle, I suggest adding ceramic disc magnets to the back of each piece.

Free Download of 1-2-3 Puzzle

These printables are designed to be printed at 100% (Actual Size). If your computer defaults to scaling the file to leave larger margins on your print jobs, you will end up with puzzle pieces which do not fit the grid exactly.

11 x 17 Version

1-2-3 Puzzle Board – 11 x 17 (PDF) (687 downloads )

1-2-3 Puzzle Pieces – Prints on Letter Sized Paper (PDF) (964 downloads )

8.5 x 11 Version

Note: You will need to do some trimming and gluing or taping to assemble the two pages to form the puzzle board.

1-2-3 Puzzle Board – 8.5 x 11 (PDF) (696 downloads )

1-2-3 Puzzle Pieces – Prints on Letter Sized Paper (PDF) (964 downloads )

Editable Publisher Files

1-2-3 Puzzle (Editable Publisher Files ZIP) (509 downloads )

Puzzle Solutions

I intentionally do not make answers to the printable math puzzles I share on my blog available online because I strive to provide learning experiences for my students that are non-google-able. I would like other teachers to be able to use these puzzles in their classrooms as well without the solutions being easily found on the Internet.

However, I do recognize that us teachers are busy people and sometimes need to quickly reference an answer key to see if a student has solved a puzzle correctly or to see if they have interpreted the instructions properly.

If you are a teacher who is using these puzzles in your classroom, please send me an email at with information about what you teach and where you teach. I will be happy to forward an answer key to you.

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