Math = Love: Decorate the Tree Puzzle

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Decorate the Tree Puzzle

It's officially the first day of Christmas Break here in the Carter household. So far, I've celebrated by doing the standard dishes and laundry, watching a Christmas movie as well as silly get out of debt reality shows on Amazon Prime, created and tested a Christmas-themed puzzle, cooked quinoa tacos for lunch, and sewed a headband/ear warmer that turned out to be a mobius strip.

Yesterday, my students were taking their semester tests. When I wasn't frantically grading completed tests and doing notebook checks, I took a bit of time to look through Puzzle Box, Volume 1-3 (affiliate link). I've flipped through these books and solved many of the puzzles since getting them, but yesterday I had a different purpose for looking through them. I wanted to make a list of all the puzzles that were suitable to be typed up and used with my students. Each volume had at least 40+ puzzles that I wish to use someday with my students. I've already typed up several of the puzzles including the Color Square Puzzle and the Pyramid Challenge. I've typed up two or three more, but I have not had a chance to use them with my students yet.

Inspired by all the puzzles I looked at yesterday, I got a bit sidetracked on my task to type up some of the puzzles, and instead I ended up trying my hand at creating my own puzzle. Though I've solved quite a few puzzles, I am completely new at this task of creating a puzzle. So, I'd love to hear constructive feedback on how to improve this puzzle or future puzzles.

I'm calling my first puzzle "Decorate the Tree." Given that it is Christmas themed and my students are currently on Christmas break, I'm not going to get a chance to try it out with my own students until NEXT year. I still want to share it here on my blog for others to use though.

The tree template is designed to be printed on 11 x 17 cardstock (affiliate link). If you don't have the ability to print on 11 x 17 paper, you can print the PDF scaled to 65%. This will produce a letter-sized board. If you do this, you will also need to scale the puzzle pieces to 65% when you print them on letter-sized paper. This is what I did for testing the puzzle out at home.

In addition to the tree template, you will also need to print two sheets of puzzle pieces.

The first sheet has nine trominos. These should be printed on green paper to form the bulk of the Christmas tree. 
The second sheet has nine squares. These can be printed on any color. Each square represents an "ornament." I chose to print mine on red paper to make it extra festive.

Once you have your tree template and puzzle pieces, it's time to "Decorate the Tree." The task is as follows: Use the green pieces to cover the tree. You may flip or rotate any piece. Don't forget to leave spaces for the ornaments! Every part of the tree must be covered without overlapping any pieces. No ornament may touch any other ornament, not even at a corner.

I have found one solution myself, and my husband found a totally different solution today when he tested it out. I'm not sure how many solutions exist yet.

If you would like to try the puzzle out for yourself, you can download the files here. If you have any ideas on how to improve this puzzle or future puzzles, I'd love to hear them! 


  1. Thanks :-)
    We found four different solutions.

  2. I cannot get it to print the correct size---