Math = Love: Panda Squares Puzzle Fun

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Panda Squares Puzzle Fun

My first introduction to Panda Squares was from one of my favorite inspiration sources: Twitter!

I saw a tweet by Jenny Leake that sparked my curiosity.

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This curiosity led me to do a google search. I was pleasantly surprised to find David Butler's blog at the top of the search results.

From his blog post, I learned that the puzzle was from a book titled Ivan Moscovich's Super Games (affiliate link). David asked his daughter to rename the puzzle from "Bits." She chose "Panda Squares." When I told my students that the name of the puzzle was "Panda Squares," some of my students assumed that the pieces would assemble to create a panda.

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David kindly offers a free download of the puzzle pieces on his blog. I put out a new puzzle each week for my kids to work on during their free time, and I decided this would make the perfect puzzle. 

To begin, I printed several sets of panda squares in different sizes and laminated them. I used my largest set for the puzzle table, but I printed smaller, individual puzzles for students to use by themselves later in the year. 

I didn't want to have to keep explaining the rules of the puzzle, so I printed up the instructions and added a clipart panda for extra cuteness. 

I did run into the problem of students misinterpreting the instructions a bit. They didn't realize that they had to use ALL of the 16 pieces. Bailey Calloway tweeted about having the same issue. 

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So, to combat this misconception, I have reworded my instructions a bit for the future. 

The file for the instructions I typed up can be found here. David Butler's puzzle pieces can be found here

To spark student interest in the puzzle, I spread out the pieces across the puzzle table at the front of my room. 

It took a bit of time for students to get intrigued enough to try, but soon I would glance over during free minutes of class and see things like this: 

In his blog post, David Butler mentioned having students "notice and wonder" based on their various solutions to the puzzle. For my high school students, finding a single solution was enough of a challenge. Over the course of the week that this puzzle was out, I only had one pair of students find a solution. 

When I took a picture of their solution, they insisted on being in it, too.

Many other students tried, but they would often get frustrated when the last piece didn't fit in nicely. It made me sad to watch them scramble the puzzle pieces in frustration instead of persevering and trying to rearrange the puzzle pieces to make it work.

Now, it's a new week with a new puzzle, and I've already had multiple students comment that they wanted another chance with the panda squares puzzle. Guys, this is the sign of a good puzzle!

This will probably be the first puzzle of the year to make a second appearance on our puzzle table!


  1. Could you post the smaller sized pieces as well? This is a great activity for a Math Mastery class that I teach. Thank you!

    1. If you change your print settings when you print it so that you print 16 per page, it should be the right size. :)

  2. I love the idea of having a puzzle table in my room - do you have a list of the puzzles you have used? I know I'm motivated now, but a few weeks in I will struggle to find puzzles and probably quit. :( If I can get them all ready now I'm WAY more likely to do this!

  3. Hi Sarah,

    I cannot seem to download any of the files you have uploaded to appbox. is there any other way of getting these documents? I would like a copy of the Panda puzzle, Colour Square and your Christmas tree puzzle that you have blogged about in regards to your puzzle table.

  4. <a href=">how many seconds in a year </a>PuzzleFry is the hub for interview puzzles, brain teasers, logic puzzles, brain games, riddles, Logical Questions, Math and Number Puzzles and quizzes.