I’ve experimented with using more math puzzles in the classroom this school year. I continue to find that games and puzzles have the potential to engage students in meaningful ways. Similar to games, puzzles can encourage collaboration and perseverance skills that will help students long-term.
About a month ago I came across a free puzzle maker called Tarsia. Tarsia is a program for PC users that allows the creation of different types of digital puzzles that you can print out. There’s a large database of math puzzles that are compatible with Tarsia here. A colleague and I have used them during our math station activities. Students work in collaborative groups of 2-3 to complete the puzzles. Last week I heard students having math conversations about whether a specific piece fits or not. Hearing students confirm their reasoning for putting a piece in a particular place can be useful in seeing if a student is understanding a particular concept. I feel like the puzzles have been especially beneficial in reinforcing many math concepts. They are reusable for station work and could be used in conjunction with a student math journal piece.
Keep in mind that I only use these types of puzzles for stations about once per week. Moderation is key with these types of puzzles. I also found that cutting and bagging the puzzles in advance saves time. In addition to the puzzles, I’m using math card games, technology tools, and self-directed learning activities for math groups that don’t directly meet with the teacher during guided math. I’m looking forward to seeing how the puzzles continue to impact student engagement and learning in the classroom.