Camp Mathematics is all about exploring math in FUN ways. No worksheets, no drills, no forced memorization of facts. Brain teasers and puzzles are one of my favorite ways to stretch the kids' minds and they may not even know they are working on their math skills! Sneaking in some out of the box thinking with this classic T Puzzle was exactly my plan. This week's camp theme is shapes and geometry so it was time to play around with geometric manipulation.
The T Puzzle is a type of "dissection puzzle". Dissection puzzles are a type of geometry puzzle in which a shape, such as a square or triangle is cut apart. The pieces are then rearranged to make new shapes or put back together into the origianl shape. Tangrams and the Pythagorean Square Puzzle are the most well known geometry puzzles.
Solving dissection puzzles can really stretch the brain because often the solution is infuriatingly elusive, even though they look so simple to solve. Kids (and grown-ups!) have to give their spatial thinking skills a real workout.
How to Solve the T Puzzle:
Print out our T puzzle template. There are two pages. Cut out the T on the first page and snip it into pieces along the solid lines. (Obviously you want to do the cutting so your kid can't see the solution!)
The second page is for reference, so kids can see what the completed puzzle will look like.
Configure the 4 pieces into the T shape.
Tip: There are two ways you can give puzzled kids (pun!) a hint.
- Suggest they complete the puzzle on top of the colored T on the second page of the printable; or
- Explain no other piece fits into the the notch in the irregular shaped piece.
Why is the T puzzle tricky?
As you can see in the video below, the impulse of the puzzler is to "fill the notch". In addition, the large irregular pentagon piece is placed diagonally, instead of vertically or horizontally as one would understandably assume upon starting the puzzle.
Watch the video!
History of the T Puzzle:
Search for "dissection puzzle" and you will see there are loads out there. The "T Puzzle" became popular in the early 20th century, although the first mention of it was in the 19th century. Martin Gardner, the man who made mathematics a recreational sport, and whose books I have been exploring said, "I know of no polygon-dissection puzzle with as few pieces that is so intractable."
- Use the pieces to create other shapes. Can you make an arrow? What about another geometric shape like a trapezoid or a parallelogram?
- Cut out the completed T from the second page of our printable, dissect and cut it into shapes to make your own T puzzle!
- After completing the puzzle, re-scramble the pieces. How easy is it to re-find the solution?
Are you enjoying our Camp Mathematics series this summer? We are half way through! Next week we explore the topic of patterns and math art, one of my very favorite subjects! But before you go, be sure to hop over to Coffee Cups and Crayons for another geometry math activity (using grapes no less!) to tide you over until next Thursday.
Previous camp mathematics fun:
More brain teaser fun: (videos included)
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