Math = Love: Puzzle Table: Weeks 1-6

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Puzzle Table: Weeks 1-6

Yesterday, someone on twitter asked me for a list of puzzles I had used so far this year on my puzzle table. Inspired by Sara VanDerWerf's idea of a play table, I put out a new puzzle for my students to play with during spare class time each Monday. The puzzle stays out for the entire week to spark student interest and curiosity. Some of the puzzles I use have been purchased. Others are puzzles I downloaded and laminated for durability.

Here are the puzzles I have used so far on my puzzle table this year:

Week 1: Tangrams with Geometiles - I printed the free tangrams puzzles from the Geometiles website and placed them in a binder for students to work through. These puzzles look deceptively easy. My students loved these! They also loved building 3D shapes using the geometiles. My classes were so sad when I put these away. We only did the first set of tangram puzzles, so I will have to get them out again soon. I love that each set of tangram puzzles uses a different subset of the tangram pieces.

Week 2: Brick Logic (affiliate link) by ThinkFun -  You wouldn't think that a puzzle with only five pieces could be so tricky, but it is! I love that these puzzles can be solve with the puzzle pieces laying flat (like a 2D puzzle) or with the puzzle pieces standing up (like a 3D puzzle). I find it very interesting to watch students tackle these puzzles. I do wish that the answers to each puzzle weren't so easily accessible. My students are quick to flip the cards over and look at the answer. :(

Week 3: Shape Logic (affiliate link) by ThinkFun - My students didn't take to this puzzle as much as I would have hoped. The goal is for students to use the specified green and blue pieces to make two identical shapes. Most of my students, however, just chose to use these pieces to make creative designs. I guess that's still a win! In the future, I would type up some directions to place next to these puzzle pieces.

Here are some of their creations: 

Week 4: Panda Squares - I learned about this fun puzzle from a tweet that led me to a blog post by David Butler.  The goal is to arrange the 16 pieces into a 4 x 4 square so that the colors match along each edge. Black must touch black. White must touch white. There are thousands of solutions, but my students struggled to come up with a single solution. Many students got close, and they were quite frustrated at me when I put the panda square puzzle pieces up.

Week 5: Block by Block (affiliate link) by ThinkFun - I have an older copy of this game. The box says it was created by Binary Arts. A google search shows that ThinkFun is the name that the Binary Arts company used to rebrand themselves. Makes sense! Many of my students took it upon themselves to make these pieces into a cube instead of trying to solve the challenges on the cards. Towards the end of the week, I saw several students working together to try and make the designs on each card.

Week 6: The Four Aces Puzzle - I found this printable puzzle on a Canadian puzzle website. It's a clever and tricky edge matching puzzle. When I put out the new puzzle yesterday at lunch, I had three students surrounding the table within a minute of the new puzzle being out. I thought this puzzle was going to be self-explanatory, but it's looking like I need to type up a set of instructions for it a la panda squares. I managed to solve this puzzle during Cookie Club yesterday. I have had one student get close so far, but no one has solved it yet. Good thing we still have four days to go with this one! 

So far, the extra time it takes each week to put out a new puzzle has been SO worth it. I look forward to seeing what my puzzle table evolves into as the year progresses.

Have any suggestions for puzzles? I'd love to hear them in the comments below! 


  1. I started doing a play table this year too. So far I've done:
    --the Geometiles
    --tiling turtles and spiraling pentagons (from Christopher at Talking Math With Your Kids)
    --origami shapes that can make cubes, octahedrons, and icosahedrons (

    My other ideas are the Think Fun puzzles that I have, paper set up to make hexaflexagons or hexahexaflexagons, and regular jigsaw puzzles. I also had a student tell me about this: It looks cool!


  2. Hi Sarah. You and Sara have inspired me to take the plunge with a puzzle table this year. I so appreciate all of your resources!! I tried to go to the to find the 4 Aces Puzzle, but it only seems to have online games. The printables are simply Sudoku and Word Searches. Would you have a copy of this puzzle to share?

  3. Thank you Sarah for everything you do to share your creative ideas and materials!

    I also would love to have a copy of the Four Aces Puzzle if you have one.

  4. Do you have a printable copy of the Four Aces?

  5. Those of you having trouble finding the Four Aces puzzle, try this link:

    1. thank you for sharing this link! Hope to do some of these puzzles with my students this week!