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Five Easy Pieces Activity

I want to share the Five Easy Pieces Activity I used with my Algebra 2 students on the first day of school. This year, I am emphasizing problem solving strategies and cooperative learning in my classroom.  So, I chose first day activities for my classes to participate in that would require or encourage them to work in a group.

5 easy pieces activity

This summer, I went to a Pre-AP Mathematics workshop.  During the first day of that workshop, I had the opportunity to work through Five Easy Pieces which was designed by the Exeter Math Academy.  I fell in love with the activity because it involves three of my favorite things–paper folding, algebra, and logic puzzles!  

five easy pieces activity exeter math academy first day of school math activity

Since this activity requires students to manipulate variables and write equations, I decided it would be a perfect basic algebra review for my Algebra 2 students.  I met my students at the door with a stack of colored paper.  Each student chose a color of paper and entered the room to find a welcome sign on the Smart board that instructed them to sit wherever they chose.

five easy pieces activity exeter math academy first day of school math activity

After the bell rang to start class, I passed out the instructions to Five Easy Pieces without any explanation or guidance.  (Well, I did have to tell them where the scissors were…)  There were groans and complaints.  That didn’t really surprise me, though.

Once students follow the eight provided steps to create their “five easy pieces,” they are given a chart to complete. They must determine how many of one type of piece it takes to cover a different type of piece. On top of finding a numerical answer, they must also write an equation.

The back of the worksheet provides them with extension tasks to complete.

five easy pieces activity exeter math academy first day of school math activity
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One thing I learned from this activity is that my Algebra 2 group this year is made up of students of varying abilities.  Last year, I had 12 Algebra 2 students.  This year, I have almost 40.  More students are taking Algebra 2, and that is a very good thing!  Many of my students have a very weak Algebra 1 foundation, but I think that with a lot of hard work, they will be able to be successful.  

Some groups finished the entire five easy pieces activity in twenty-five minutes.  Other groups struggled to get the pieces cut out and table of equations written in fifty minutes.  Some groups were willing to try the logic puzzles.  Others gave up as soon as they saw the logic puzzles.  I’m thankful for the insight provided by this activity, and I think it’s definitely a keeper!  

Link to Download Five Easy Pieces Activity


Learning House

Wednesday 28th of November 2018

I'm very much inspired when I've visited your blog. your blog is very nice and informative! Hope you will continue with new article. Homeschool in canada


Friday 3rd of October 2014

I'm confused because in Five Easy pieces it tells you what to do with each of four-fourths of the original square... Then it tells you to label the remaining square I... How is there a remaining square?

Mermaid of Brooklyn - Wendy Menard

Thursday 15th of August 2013

Sarah, thanks for sharing these great activities! In what level class did you do the Exeter Math 5 Easy Pieces? And the Marshmallow Challenge? I love your blog and your enthusiasm!

Wendy Menard


Thursday 25th of August 2016

Hi my name is Leslie can you send me the link and answer key to five easy pieces please?

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Thursday 29th of May 2014

Hi Wendy! I did the 5 Easy Pieces with my Algebra 2 students. And, I did the Marshmallow Challenge with Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Statistics.


Wednesday 14th of August 2013

I am so glad to see your feedback about 31-derful. I am a first year teacher and was thinking about doing it with my Algebra 1 class. I am also curious about if you have tried your laminator yet...I purchased the same one but haven't received it yet. I read your blog all of the time and am using some of your things for my classroom so thank you!

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Thursday 15th of August 2013

I bought my laminator last summer, and I've gone through over 300 laminating sheets. I LOVE my laminator! I think you're going to love it!

Thanks for reading my blog!


Wednesday 14th of August 2013

5 Easy pieces sounds like a great first day activity! I think I will squeeze that one in. One question that I struggled with in my first year was what to do with groups that finished early. You mentioned some finished in 1/2 the time. What did you have them do?

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Thursday 15th of August 2013

This summer, I purchased a class set of tangrams. I don't teach geometry, but I thought they would be fun to pull out every once in a while and play with in algebra. So, when groups finished the task early, I handed each student a bag of tangrams and instructed them to build a square using all of the pieces. That managed to keep them quite occupied and frustrated. :)

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