Not sure what I mean by a 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. Most recently, I have been finding puzzle inspiration from the Puzzle Box books (Volumes 1-3) which are published by Dover Publications (affiliate link). Two of the puzzles in this recap come from this series of books.

Each volume has 300 puzzles. What I love most about this series of books is that there is such a great variety in puzzle types. You aren't stuck with just sudoku puzzles, kenken puzzles, or traditional logic puzzles where you have to figure out which person matches with which food and drives which car which is which color. Sure, you will find some Japanese style logic puzzles and traditional logic puzzles inside, but the books are chock full of interesting puzzles of all different types. I highly recommend using the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon to get an idea of the awesome variety of puzzles. So many of these logic puzzles can be adapted for classroom use, so these books are perfect for math teachers.

Recently, I've been asked where my puzzle table is in relation to the rest of my classroom. See that small table right in front of the SMARTboard? This is where my puzzle table currently lives. I chose this table because it is rarely used by my students. Mainly it is there to serve as a demonstration table for my chemistry class. I do have one student who sits there because of eye sight issues. And, I have eight students in my math concepts class and eight tables, so you can do the math there. I'm not sure if this is the best placement, but it works for me for now. When I start a puzzle table from the beginning of the year in the future, I will probably plan it into my classroom design a little more thoughtfully.

Week 7: Color Square Puzzle from Puzzle Box, Volume 1 (affiliate link)

This puzzle represents my new puzzle table obsession: shape fitting puzzles. When I flip through the Puzzle Box books, these are the puzzles my eyes are drawn to. These are the puzzles that I know my students will be sucked in by. Need proof that I'm obsessed by this type of puzzle? I recently created my own Christmas-themed shape fitting puzzle. I sadly didn't get to use it with my students because I made it during Christmas Break.

The goal of this puzzle was to take eight pieces in three different colors and arrange them (without overlapping) so that the square on the puzzleboard was formed. Each piece could only touch pieces of different colors. Pieces of the same color weren't even allowed to touch at a corner! You can learn more about this puzzle and download the files I created to use this puzzle with your own students here.

Week 8: Pyramid Challenge from Puzzle Box, Volume 3 (affiliate link)

This puzzle wasn't so much a test of trying to get puzzle pieces to fit a shape but to try and get students to lay their puzzle pieces in such a way as to follow the prescribed logic. No two puzzle pieces of the same color could touch at an edge (touching at corners is okay). Also, no two puzzle pieces with the same picture are allowed to touch along an edge (again, touching at corners is fine).

This puzzle really tested my students' instruction reading ability. Check out this student's attempt at a solution. He has two exclamation points touch one another. This student had read the part of the instructions about colors not touching but had stopped short of the part about pieces with the same shape touching.

I wrote a blog post sharing more about this puzzle and the files to download a copy for your own classroom here.

Week 9: The H Puzzle and the T Puzzle from Puzzles.ca

The T Puzzle got quite a bit more play than the H Puzzle. I'm curious if this had to do with the differences in numbers of pieces. Nobody ended up solving the T puzzle, however. Each student who tried commented that it was just impossible. My husband even gave it a shot one evening while waiting for me to pack up my stuff and declared it to be impossible.

Do you have digital copies of the T and H Puzzles? The website doesn't seem to have them!

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