The T Puzzle features four pieces that must be combined to form a symmetric capital T. The pieces may not overlap one another in the final configuration. This is a deceivingly simple puzzle.
After all, how hard could it be to arrange just four pieces to form a symmetric capital T? When Martin Gardner wrote of this puzzle in his column in Scientific American, he said, “I know of no polygon-dissection puzzle with as few pieces that is so intractable.”
The puzzle actually originated in the early 1900s as a method of advertising. Companies would print their logos on the four puzzle pieces and distribute them to potential customers.
If customers were stumped by the puzzle, they were encouraged to contact the company for the solution. The Wikipedia article for the T Puzzle features a picture of an 1898 version of this puzzle.
I actually used this puzzle with students back in 2017 during the first year I ever had a puzzle table in my classroom. I used a small set of laminated pieces that I had printed from the puzzles.ca website.
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!
Students found the puzzle to be very tricky and even declared it to be impossible.
I decided to enlarge the pieces and to put disc magnets on the back of each piece so the puzzle can be hung from my magnetic dry erase board in my classroom.
I am excited about this jumbo magnetic version of the puzzle. I’m even more excited by the fact that it is appearing more and more likely that I will be able to have my magnetic puzzles back up in my classroom next year!
I am so beyond ready to get back to focusing on teaching instead of COVID-protocols.
ThinkFun used to have a downloadable version of this puzzle on their now defunct Puzzles website. An archived version thankfully still exists. I used this PDF to format my jumbo pieces.
I found out several interesting tidbits from this version of the puzzle (SPOILER ALERT – this link also includes solutions). There are actually 2 different symmetric capital Ts that can be made using these four pieces.
In addition to these two T’s, you can also use these four pieces to make a trapezoid. So, this T Puzzle is actually three tricky puzzles in one!
I suspect my students will have enough trouble finding a single T, so I didn’t add the extra challenges to the puzzle instructions.
If you have a student who finds the solution too quickly, you can easily challenge them to one of these extension tasks!
Free Download of T Puzzle
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.