My first introduction to the Panda Squares Puzzle was from one of my favorite inspiration sources: Twitter!
I saw a tweet by Jenny Leake that sparked my curiosity.
This curiosity led me to do a google search. I was pleasantly surprised to find David Butler‘s blog at the top of the search results.
From his blog post, I learned that the puzzle was from a book titled Ivan Moscovich’s Super Games. David asked his daughter to rename the puzzle from “Bits.” She chose “Panda Squares.” When I told my students that the name of the puzzle was “Panda Squares,” some of my students assumed that the pieces would assemble to create a panda.
David kindly offers a free download of the puzzle pieces on his blog. I put out a new puzzle each week for my kids to work on during their free time, and I decided this would make the perfect puzzle.
To begin, I printed several sets of panda squares in different sizes and laminated them.
MATH = LOVE RECOMMENDS…
A laminator is a MUST-HAVE for me as a math teacher! I spent my first six years as a teacher at a school with a broken laminator, so I had to find a way to laminate things myself.
I’ve had several laminators over the years. I currently use a Scotch laminator at home and a Swingline laminator at school.
I highly recommend splurging a bit on the actual laminator and buying the cheapest laminating pouches you can find!
I used my largest set for the puzzle table, but I printed smaller, individual puzzles for students to use by themselves later in the year.
I didn’t want to have to keep explaining the rules of the puzzle, so I printed up the instructions and added a clipart panda for extra cuteness. I’ve added a free download of these instructions to the bottom of this post.
I did run into the problem of students misinterpreting the instructions a bit. They didn’t realize that they had to use ALL of the 16 pieces. Bailey Calloway tweeted about having the same issue.
So, to combat this misconception, I have reworded my instructions a bit for the future.
To spark student interest in the panda squares puzzle, I spread out the pieces across the puzzle table at the front of my room. It took a bit of time for students to get intrigued enough to try, but soon I would glance over during free minutes of class and see things like this:
In his blog post about the panda squares puzzle, David Butler mentioned having students “notice and wonder” based on their various solutions to the puzzle. For my high school students, finding a single solution was enough of a challenge.
Over the course of the week that this puzzle was out, I only had one pair of students find a solution.
When I took a picture of their solution, they insisted on being in it, too.
Many other students tried, but they would often get frustrated when the last piece didn’t fit in nicely. It made me sad to watch them scramble the puzzle pieces in frustration instead of persevering and trying to rearrange the puzzle pieces to make it work.
Now, it’s a new week with a new puzzle, and I’ve already had multiple students comment that they wanted another chance with the panda squares puzzle. Guys, this is the sign of a good puzzle!
This will probably be the first puzzle of the year to make a second appearance on our puzzle table!
Free Download of Panda Squares Puzzle
David Butler’s free printable panda square puzzle pieces can be found here.
Looking for more printable puzzles? Check out my dedicated puzzles page!