Math = Love: Color Square Puzzle from Puzzle Box, Volume 1

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Color Square Puzzle from Puzzle Box, Volume 1

Today's post will probably be short because I'm currently battling a sore throat. I've got my fingers crossed that this is due to allergies and not an impending cold.  

Yesterday, I put out this week's new puzzle. I have a table at the front of my room that is designated as the "Puzzle Table." Every Monday, I put out a different puzzle for students to tackle over the span of the week during spare class time.

This week's puzzle has been incredibly popular after only two days, so I'm excited to share it with you here on the blog.

First, I think I need to tell you how I ran across this puzzle in the first place. Just a note: this post does contain affiliate links. If you purchase the items mentioned in this post, I will receive a small percentage of your purchase price. This helps support this site without costing you any extra!

The Grabarchuk Family reached out to me via Twitter to ask if I would be interested in reviewing their new Strimko puzzle book.

I had never heard of Strimko puzzles before, but I jumped at the chance to try out a new-to-me puzzle. It turns out they're super awesome, but that's the topic of an upcoming blog post. Today, I want to tell you about a puzzle that I learned about as a result of learning about the Strimko puzzle books.

After getting Strimko Book 1 in the mail and being super impressed by the quality, I went to look at what other books I could get from the Grabarchuk Family. This search led me to discover Puzzle Box, Volume 1 which was edited by part of the Grabarchuk Family.

It was in this book that I ran across Puzzle #7 by Richard Candy. Using 8 given tiles, create a 5 x 5 square where no piece is allowed to touch a piece of the same color - not even at a corner! This "not even at a corner" part is what gives the puzzle its trickiness.

Lucky for us, you can see this puzzle as part of the "Look Inside" preview feature on Amazon. This book is full of awesome, math-y puzzles, and I would recommend it for any math teacher who loves incorporating puzzles into their classes. The puzzle below is just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to the potential this book has to play an important role in your classroom.

Immediately, I saw potential for this puzzle to appear on my puzzle table. So, I set about creating a grid and set of pieces for my students to manipulate.

I designed the grid to print on 11 x 17 cardstock because I believe bigger is always better when it comes to puzzles for student use. If you don't have access to 11 x 17 paper, you can choose the option in Adobe to print on multiple sheets of letter sized paper and glue/tape them together. Or, you can scale it to fit on letter sized paper. Keep in mind that you will also need to scale the tiles so they are the same size!

Then, I designed the tiles to fit perfectly on the grid. The tiles must be printed on three different colors of letter sized paper. I used Astrobrights paper to make them extra bright and colorful.

After printing out the puzzle pieces, I started to think that this puzzle was going to be too easy. Then, I sat down in the floor of my living room and began to try and solve the puzzle myself. I tried and tried and tried and tried. Nope. This puzzle is definitely not too easy. It was actually kinda frustrating. So frustrating, in fact, that eventually I whined enough about how hard it was that my husband temporarily abandoned his computer game to help me solve it. That, ladies and gents, is true love! Even then, it probably still took at least thirty minutes between my husband and myself to find a solution.

Since it's been out on the puzzle table, my students have been working in groups to attempt and solve this puzzle for themselves. Usually, it starts with one student attempting it. Soon, another student (who usually hasn't read the instructions!) offers a helpful (or not so helpful) hint. This leads to a discussion of the rules, and just like that another student gets sucked into the puzzle. At one point, I had five chemistry students gathered around the puzzle at one time today.

One chemistry student refused to leave the puzzle table today to take our notes over dimensional analysis because he thought he was that close to solving the puzzle. A student in my math concepts class has been especially drawn in by this puzzle. I had to drag him away from the puzzle yesterday because he needed to do his quiz over solving two-step equations. Today, he persisted until he became the first student (so far) to solve the puzzle.

There has been a bit of debate on twitter over how many possible solutions there are to this puzzle. I snapped a picture of the solution my husband and I came up with to compare it to the solutions my students come up with this week. So far, we have found two different possible solutions. I'm looking forward to collecting data to help determine if there are more!

Want to try out this fun/frustrating puzzle with your own students?

I've uploaded the files I created to make a classroom version of this puzzle here. Special thanks to Richard Candy for publishing this puzzle in Puzzle Box, Volume One. I look forward to trying more of the puzzles from this book in my classroom in the future!


  1. Could you share the solution to the color square puzzle? I can't figure it out and it's bugging me! Thank you!

  2. Hi,

    Thanks for sharing this puzzle. I thought it would be a good exercise to solve it via computer, and I have written up the results, including the solutions found, here:

    An interesting piece-fitting puzzle


  3. Thanks.
    It was easy for my daughter ;-)

  4. Hi, What program do you use to adapt the puzzles from the book to print out so that the puzzles pieces still fit accordingly? Word? InDesign? Thanks.