Math = Love: Arrows Puzzle from Puzzle Box, Volume 1

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Arrows Puzzle from Puzzle Box, Volume 1

This week, I'm trying out a different sort of puzzle on the puzzle table. Instead of being a puzzle where students have to arrange various laminated pieces like I frequently use, this is a coloring puzzle. To make things easier on students, I placed the puzzle inside an 11 x 17 dry erase pocket (affiliate link).

This puzzle, written by Erich Friedman, is featured in Puzzle Box, Volume 1 by Dover Publications (affiliate link).

My students have seemed a bit intimidated by this puzzle this week, so I'm wondering if I need to rewrite the instructions somehow. The goal of the puzzle is to color a subset of the given arrows so that each uncolored arrow points at exactly one other uncolored arrow and each colored arrow points at exactly two other colored arrows.

Some of my students who are regulars at the puzzle table read the instructions and immediately decided this puzzle was not for them without even attempting it. I'm wondering if the coloring aspect is part of the issue. If I laminated and cut out different colored/uncolored arrows that students could place on the puzzle board, would they be more willing to give the puzzle a try? 

During my planning period today, I sat down with a student who often hangs out in my room during my planning period (he has a free hour), and solved this puzzle with him. Once I read the instructions and re-explained what it meant for an arrow to point at other arrows, he was able to pretty much solve the puzzle with only a tiny bit of guidance from me.

This makes me think that this puzzle would make a better class-wide challenge than a puzzle table challenge which is more of a tackle-it-on-your-own-if-you-are-so-inclined challenge.

Interested in this puzzle for your classroom? I've uploaded the file here. It's designed to print on 11 x 17 paper, but you can easily print it scaled to ~65% to print it on letter sized paper.

Interested in more puzzles for your classroom? Check out Puzzle Box, Volumes 1-3 (affiliate link). 


  1. Maybe the directions do need to be reworded. I know my students would be scared off by the word "subset." Also, how does an arrow point to more than one other arrow?

  2. An example of what "points at exactly two other colored arrows" and "points at one other uncolored arrow," whether or not they turn out to be correct, might clarify the directions. Right now, you're left wondering how an arrow points at two arrows. Perhaps the solution is to start together as a class, get partway, and let those who are inclined finish.

    Please clarify the directions for us so we can attempt the puzzle.

    1. I was able to solve it by assuming that when it says "points directly at" it means that in its line of sight, a coloured arrow must have two coloured arrows in that direction. So you can skip an arrow, but in the direction it is pointing, a coloured arrow would point towards two coloured arrows. An uncoloured arrow would have one uncoloured arrow in its direction. Not sure that makes sense but it worked for me that way.

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