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Pentomino Calendar Puzzle

This daily pentomino calendar puzzle features 31 puzzles in 1. Can you cover the calendar grid with standard pentominoes so that only today’s date is left uncovered?

pentomino calendar puzzle solved for the number 8

My students are always begging for new puzzles, so when I can find a puzzle that is actually multiple puzzles in one I get super excited.

Several years ago, I received a wooden copy of A Puzzle A Day Calendar Puzzle from Dragon Fjord as a present. (FYI: Dragon Fjord also makes an acrylic version of A Puzzle A Day Calendar Puzzle.) I was instantly in love with the calendar puzzle which was actually 365 puzzles in one.

Dragon Fjord Puzzle A Day Calendar Puzzle

I always had intentions of using it in my classroom with students, but I never actually made it happen.

pentomino calendar puzzle with 7 pentomino pieces surrounding it

So when I discovered a simpler version of a daily calendar puzzle that used plastic pentominoes that I already had in my classroom, I knew I had to try it out with my students.

The goal of this puzzle is to use the provided pentomino pieces to cover the calendar grid so that each square except the square that corresponds to the current day of the month is covered.

partially solved pentomino calendar puzzle

For example, if it was June 8th, I would want to cover every square except the 8 square on the calendar grid.

partially solved pentomino calendar puzzle

I will have to say that the puzzle seems much easier to solve for some days than other days.

The other good thing about this puzzle? By the time you solve all 31 puzzles, you can most likely start over again as I doubt you remember exactly how you solved the puzzle for the 1st of the month!

Supplies Needed

This puzzle uses part of a standard set of 12 pentominoes. I use plastic pentominoes in my classroom that are made out of one-inch squares.

If you don’t have access to a set of plastic pentominoes, I offer a set of free printable pentomino pieces that can be printed and laminated for durability.

MATH = LOVE RECOMMENDS…

plastic one inch pentominoes in bucket

Amazon offers several brands of plastic pentominoes which I recommend. Each brand is sold in a tub containing six sets of twelve pentominoes each for a total of 72 pentomino pieces.

Want each student to have their own set of pentominoes? I also offer a set of free printable one-inch pentominoes pieces which can be laminated or printed on cardstock for durability.

The easier version of this puzzle uses 7 different pentomino shapes. Only six of them will be used in any single solution of the pentomino calendar puzzle, however.

pentomino pieces for pentomino calendar puzzle

I created a printable grid for you to lay the pentomino pieces on as you pull them out. (NOTE: the pentomino pieces can be flipped over. They do not have to stay in the orientation provided.)

Pentominoes needed for easier version of pentominoes calendar puzzle

The more challenging version of the puzzle requires you to use the exact same 6 pentomino pieces for each date’s puzzle. I would recommend using this more challenging version as a sort of extension task.

Pentomino Pieces Needed for Challenging Version of Pentomino Calendar

After students can solve each date using seven pentominoes, challenge them to do the entire challenge over again with one less pentomino piece to pull from .

Puzzle Instructions

Easier Version

Use 6 of the 7 provided pentomino pieces to cover the calendar. The empty square should represent today’s date.

Pentomino pieces can be flipped or rotated, but they are not allowed to overlap one another.

alternate version of pentomino calendar

In this version of the puzzle, you will always have one pentominio piece which you did not use in your solution.

pentomino calendar puzzle solved for the 8th

Challenging Version

Use all 6 provided pentomino pieces to cover the calendar. The empty square should represent today’s date.

Pentomino pieces can be flipped or rotated, but they are not allowed to overlap one another.

screenshot of pentomino calendar instructions

This version of the puzzle will use all six pieces, so the limited choices of puzzle pieces definitely increases the puzzle’s difficulty level.

Source of Puzzle

I originally ran across this pentominoes calendar puzzle mentioned several times on Ludomatica’s Instagram page. There weren’t many details provided (and the posts were all in Italian), so this sent me on a hunt to figure out what this puzzle was.

I eventually found the Instagram poster’s blog post about the same activity blog post titled “Il calendario pentamino.” It was a very interesting blog post to read (thanks to the power of Google Translate).

I especially liked how the students made pockets to hold their puzzle pieces in their notebooks and kept color-coded solutions in their notebooks as they solved the calendar puzzle each day.

Searching for “Il Calendario Pentamino” led me to a copy of the activity included in Matematica Attiva, an Italian math textbook published in 2012.

I continued down the rabbit hole of google and found that the puzzle is sold commercially in Germany under the name Pentomino-Kalender.

A wooden version of this pentomino calendar puzzle can be purchased on Etsy from JeuxEfce. This is the more difficult version of the puzzle that uses the exact same six pentominoes for each day’s solution.

I say all this to say that I am not sure exactly who to credit with the invention of this puzzle. But if I had to guess, I would say that the puzzle originated in Europe.

If anyone knows who invented this puzzle, please let me know so I can update my blog post with the information!

Ideas for Using in Class

I posted this pentomino calendar puzzle in my classroom during the last month or so of school. I hung one of the calendar grids on the board with magnetic clips and placed another laminated puzzle grid and the correct pentomino pieces in a magnetic pocket for students to grab and take back to their desks.

pentomino calendar hanging on dry erase board in high school math classroom

I love these magnetic pockets from Charles Leonard (available from Amazon) because students can easily grab the entire pocket of pentominoes and the puzzle and take it back to their desk to solve the puzzle.

pentomino calendar puzzle printout in magnetic pocket with blue pentomino pieces in it

This keeps me from having to pass out pentominoes or from students dropping pieces on their way to their desks.

I had a few students buy in to the puzzle immediately, and they started grabbing one of the puzzle pouches each day and taking it to their table to work on while they waited on the bell to ring and class to start.

student working on pentomino calendar puzzle

I think this would make a great first day of school math activity. You could have each student try to solve for the current date or their birth date.

Adapting the Puzzle for Younger Students

While I was working on writing this blog post, my four year old wanted to “help.” I asked him if he knew how to type to which he replied “Yes!”

I ended up printing him off his own copy of the puzzle. It took a few minutes for him to understand the concept of the puzzle, but he did eventually catch on.

I had him start by solving the puzzle for the number 4 since he is 4 years old. After solving for 4, he wanted to solve for 3. And 2. And 1.

With a bit of help from his parents, he has now solved all of the puzzles from 1 to 13.

At a certain point, he ended up raiding the bag of extra pentomino pieces, so he has been using all 12 standard pentomino pieces to solve the puzzles. I think this is a great example of scaffolding.

So for a bit easier version of the puzzle, you could provided students with an entire set of 12 pentominoes pieces of which they have to choose five pieces to solve the daily puzzle.

blank copy of pentomino calendar puzzle without any instructions

I’ve included a copy of the pentomino calendar puzzle without any instructions printed on it in case you want to create your own adapted rules.

Similar Puzzles

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 sarah@mathequalslove.net with information about what you teach and where you teach. I will be happy to forward an answer key to you.