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This 5 piece square puzzle made the perfect challenge to give to my math students for Brain Teaser Thursday.
It has been a lot harder than I anticipated to come up with a different brain teaser for every Thursday.
Now, I love brain teasers, but there’s a definite difference between the brain teasers I find engaging and the brain teasers that my students are interested in.
I have found quite a few, though, that have kept them busy and intrigued.
This blog posts is part of an effort to blog about the ones that have worked well with my students so I don’t forget about them. I will also try to blog about the ones that don’t work.
On my school computer, I only have four bookmarks: Remind, a site with trig lesson plans, a site that makes printable flashcards, and a site with puzzles/brain teasers to solve.
This square puzzle that I’m about to blog about came from the puzzle site. I’ll show you how the site presented the puzzle.
Then, I’ll show you how I did it in class with my students.
I knew that if I projected this picture of the square puzzle on the board, my kids would be less than interested. I needed to print off the pieces for them so they could actually manipulate the pieces with their hands.
I don’t know about you, but I would have no clue how to go about solving this without printing off the pieces…
For my first period class, I put this image into a file 4-to-a-page and printed it on orange card stock.
I fed that card stock through my mini laminator to make the pieces durable enough to last a day with six classes of high school students.
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!
My first hour was tasked with cutting apart the puzzle and solving it. This means my first hour saw the square made with 1 piece and the square made with 4 pieces.
They had to combine these to make one square with 5 pieces.
The students claimed the square puzzle was impossible. I promised them it wasn’t.
Eventually one student was able to figure it out. I had my students put their pieces in a ziploc bag for the later classes.
One of my students wrote Algebra 1 on the bags. But, I used this activity with my Algebra 2 and trig classes, too.
As my later classes trickled in, I instructed them to pick up a bag from the front desk and wait for further instructions.
Many of my students assumed that the shapes in this bag were tangrams. On the first day of school, I had students try to make a square using all 7 tangrams.
Now that the pieces were already jumbled in a bag, I could change up my instructions.
Instead of asking students to take the single square and the square made out of four pieces and construct a square out of all five pieces, I broke the puzzle down into three mini-challenges.
This worked MUCH, MUCH, MUCH better.
The students who didn’t successfully complete the third challenge still had the satisfaction of completing the first two challenges of the square puzzle.
Square Puzzle Challenge 1:
Using one piece, make a square.
Every student could be successful at this challenge!
Square Puzzle Challenge 2:
Using exactly four pieces, make a square.
Some of my students saw how to do this right away. Others took a little more time.
That was perfectly okay.
Square Puzzle Challenge 3:
Using all five pieces, make a square.
This square puzzle truly was a challenge for most of my students.
The idea that a small square could be added and the pieces would still make a square was kind of mind-blowing. Honestly, it blows my mind, too.
Some kids tried to make the square with four pieces and lay the single square on top and claim that they had made a square with all five pieces.
As the day progressed, my instructions became more precise to avoid this attempt at overlapping pieces.
This square puzzle made a great five-minute class opener. It got my students a bit agitated and frustrated.
But, I view these as good things to happen in math class.
I will take students that are agitated and frustrated over students who are lethargic and couldn’t care less any day of the week.
Free Download of 5 Piece Square Puzzle Challenge
1-4-5 Square Challenge Individual Sized Puzzles (PDF) (2210 downloads)
1-4-5 Square Challenge Individual Sized Puzzles (Editable Publisher File ZIP) (1129 downloads)
Newer, Updated Jumbo Version of the 5 Piece Square Puzzle
I have recreated this puzzle to create a jumbo version of the 1-4-5 Square Challenge suitable for using with a group of students or posting on a dry erase board using magnets. Check out this post for the free download.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with information about what you teach and where you teach. I will be happy to forward an answer key to you.
Friday 18th of September 2020
My 6th Graders loved this!
Friday 13th of July 2018
I have just printed the squares.... I will use it to motivate ladies to work in teams to find solutions when there seems to be no way. :). Thanks for the idea!!! Lots of applications can be done!
Tuesday 7th of November 2017
thanks a lot for your excellent idea.