Resources and Tools for Elementary Math Specialists and Teachers
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Hands-On Puzzles


The resources in this collection are challenging puzzles that can be solved offline, and that call for some assembling and/or manipulating by the learner. The collection houses numerical, spatial and logic puzzles. The numerical puzzles not only develop number and operation sense, but involve reasoning skills as well. Some spatial puzzles involve working with shapes and some with transformations. Several resources suggest strategies for introducing and implementing puzzles in the classroom. Mathlanding also hosts a classroom collection of online, Interactive Puzzles.
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ResourceTitle/DescriptionGrade Level

This web page provides a collection of printable puzzles to help young children learn to assemble geometric pieces into figural shapes. Blank puzzle mats and full-color solution mats are provided (pdf). Puzzles are free for classroom use.

This lesson plan introduces pattern blocks and an awareness of geometric shapes to young learners. Students identify and label the shapes and solve puzzles with the blocks. Links to templates, vocabulary and activity cards are provided (pdf). Extensions, an assessment plan and suggestions for parent involvement are also provided.

This page hosts a collection of sixteen 5-page books of hidden picture puzzles. Primary students analyze an image to find out-of-place objects.

This interactive Flash puzzle helps children develop number sense and an understanding of our decimal number system. A 0-99 square has been cut into 11 irregular pieces which the user re-assembles. A printable (pdf) version is included along with questions for Getting Started and a Teachers' Resources page with implementation suggestions.

This problem helps learners become more familiar with odd and even numbers and addition facts within five. By challenging them to justify their findings, it also develops reasoning and communication skills. The problem displays 9 dominoes and asks the student to sort them according to parity, and then into pairs totaling 5 pips. It poses questions that stimulate thinking about basic number concepts. The Teachers' Notes page offers suggestions for implementation, discussion questions, ideas for extension and support, and a link to an interactive Dominoes Environment (cataloged separately).

In this problem students practice basic addition and subtraction skills along with logical reasoning to satisfy three interdependent conditions. Solvers use the clues provided to determine the number of eggs in each of three baskets. The Teachers' Notes page offers rationale, suggestions for implementation, discussion questions, ideas for extension and support, a PowerPoint presentation, and vocabulary cards (pdf).

This page hosts 30 themed hidden picture puzzles. These blackline drawings give learners a chance to analyze and locate hidden objects.

This Java applet provides practice in adding denominations of US coins in the context of a simple turn-taking game of strategy. The game starts with pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters arrayed in a row or loop. One person (or the computer) picks a coin on either end of the chain. Then the computer (or the second person) selects either the new "end" coin or the unchosen one from the previous round. Play proceeds in alternating fashion until no coins remain; the player who collects the greatest dollar amount wins. Click "random numbers" to play the same game with counting numbers in lieu of coins. A discussion of optimal strategies appears below the game.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5

This web page describes several games and puzzles that build number sense, fact and computational fluency, flexibility, and reasoning. Each activity uses an ordinary set of double-6 dominoes. After describing dominoes generally, the page provides rules for the basic domino game and a variation, and proposes several other challenges involving addition, multiplication and prime numbers. The page includes a link to an interactive Dominoes Environment (cataloged separately).

This shunting puzzle asks students to use a siding to allow two trains to pass one another on a single track. The difficulty is that the siding length is limited. Teaching suggestions, a printable page, and a solution are included.
3, 4, 5

This activity gives students the chance to explore area and perimeter in a problem solving setting. Nine differently-sized squares need to be tiled into a rectangular frame of unknown proportions. Three prompts of solving strategies are provided. Ideas for implementation, extension and support are included along with a printable sheet of the problem.

This page gives instructions for making a Tangram set. It has links to example sets and a method of folding the set from a single piece of paper. Puzzle Shapes (cataloged separately) can be accessed from this page.

This page provides puzzles that involve geometric visualization and assembling of basic polygons. There are over 200 puzzles organized into 21 categories. Instructions entitled Make a Tangram Set (cataloged separately) can be accessed at this site.

These toothpick puzzles challenge a student's visualization and knowledge of basic geometric shapes and orientations. Students must transform geometric figures into others by adding, moving or removing toothpicks. Starting from the 6 given formations there are 13 different puzzles to solve. A link to the answer key is provided.

This puzzle, played with cards on a board (downloadable file), provides an interesting context in which students can apply their knowledge of number properties. Students attempt to arrange 25 numbers and 10 property headings into a 5 by 5 grid so that each number satisfies two conditions. Properties addressed include primes, square and triangular numbers, specific sets of multiples and factors, and parity. It can be worked individually or in small groups cooperatively. The Teachers' Notes page offers suggestions for implementation, discussion questions, ideas for extension and support, and links to an article, "Using Games in the Classroom" (catalogued separately).

The instructions for this manipulative activity reinforce cooperative group learning through the silent offering and receiving of shapes, only some combinations of which piece together to form squares.

Beth Schaubroeck's lessons for 4th and 5th grade accelerated students aim to help students appreciate the breadth and diversity of mathematical thought. The 68 lessons (in both pdf and doc formats) are grouped into 11 different topical units and are designed to take 15-25 minutes each of student time. They are appropriate for independent or small group work. The author provides student worksheets, solutions, and teacher guides. Topics include: Ancient Mathematics (Egyptian and Mayan), Baseball Statistics, Fibonacci Numbers, Games of Skill, Graphs and Networks, Iteration, Pick’s Theorem, Mobius Bands, Polygonal numbers, Statistics in the library, and Tangrams.

This railroad shunting puzzle asks the solver to use visualization and perseverance in forming a train of 5 cars in a specified order. Three sidings of limited length are available for the purpose. Also hosted by this site are solution strategies, layouts and variations, prototypes, and a virtual shunting puzzle.