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Scientific Notation Square Puzzle Activity

I found a scientific notation square puzzle activity (also known as a tarsia puzzle) online.  I printed these out on different colors of paper and laminated them.  


drawing of laminator machine with text "laminating recommendations"

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!

The different colors of paper strategy is a trick I learned this summer at the OCTM conference.  

One of the speakers said that she prints activities on different colors so that pieces that land on the floor are easy to return to the set they belong to.

scientific notation square puzzle (tarsia puzzle) math science activity

 Students get a plastic bag with 16 squares in it.  They must convert numbers to or from scientific notation to match the edges of the pieces up.  When finished, the puzzle will form a 4 x 4 square.  

scientific notation square puzzle (tarsia puzzle) math science activity

Here’s what the finished puzzle will look like:

Some of my students had a hard time wrapping their minds around how to put the puzzle pieces together.  They didn’t seem to grasp that each edge had to match up correctly.  Eventually, with a little help, they got off to a better start.  

My students loved using their individual dry erase boards to work out their problems for this puzzle.  The copy machine at school insists on printing a black line down each and every page it prints.  

This means that the puzzle pieces had a black line running through four of them.  This made me sad since I’m such a perfectionist.  But, it did make it really easy to check my students’ solutions!  

When I mentioned the line to them, they said they didn’t even notice.  

Link to Download Scientific Notation Square Puzzle

Scientific Notation Square Puzzle