Puzzles challenge students. My experience has been that the children enjoy the challenge and try their best.

I encountered this puzzle in a book by Piers Anthony many years ago, and decided to try it with my classes of middle school students. Other grades might also be able to do the job, but it seemed a good challenge for grade 7.

The idea is to  make all the possible patterns that there are when using five squares and the following rules.

  • All patterns must have five squares.
  • All patterns must have squares that touch only at their sides with no diagonals (corners only) or gaps.
  • There can be no duplicates. Mirrored or rotated figures are duplicates.

You can challenge the kids using a simple sheet of graph paper, or you can get more information from my online guide which includes a printable PDF of the directions and enough layout grids to complete the job. I chose to NOT tell them how many shapes were possible. Judge that based on your students’ level. I sometimes used this as part of a lesson plan for substitutes to use if I was out of school.


Naturally, it would be great if your students enjoyed the puzzle, and I would love to hear back from you about their experience. If you have suggestions for improving the guide, let me know that, too.