Tarsia Puzzle

Instructions on how to create your own Tarsia puzzle are attached. This is a program that you can freely download in order to create card games, another great way to get your pupils more involved in their learning. Read more for ideas on what you might create and how you might use them in your classroom.
How can teachers use it?
The advantages of this software are:
  • You can easily create wide range of activities, including jigsaws of various shapes and sizes, dominoes, matching rectangular cards and follow-me cards.
  • The teacher does not need to spend time cutting up the jigsaw as the software automatically jumbles up the pieces of the jigsaw in the Output section, thus allowing the teacher to simply print out a copy and hand it to the students to cut out and assemble.
Having selected what type of activity they wish to create, teachers use the Input screen to input as many questions and answers as they like. The software has a built-in equation editor to ensure that all mathematical symbols and expressions are available, and supports the importing of images. Teachers can then check their answers on the Table screen, before printing out the jumbled up version for the students. They can then either print out the solution or project it onto their interactive whiteboard for the students to check their answers. Completed jigsaws also make nice classroom displays.
Tarsia Jigsaw activities are incredibly versatile, and can be used for many mathematical topics and all ability levels. They promote group work and discussion, and are an ideal way to revise or consolidate a topic. Furthermore, they can be differentiated – by writing questions of varying difficulty, you can ensure that all students can access some of the activity whilst also providing extension material for the most able.
Possible Twists?
With a bit of tweaking, Tarsia puzzles can be made even more challenging, pushing your students to think even more about the topic in hand. Ideas include:
  • Missing Answers – choose a couple of the cards and leave the answer (or even the question!) blank so students have to fill them in for themselves
  • Deliberate Mistakes – announce at the start of the activity that you have made two mistakes in the puzzle and students must identify them and correct them
  • Use the Extended Hexagon so students do not know where the edges of the jigsaw are
  • Non-unique Solutions – have a couple of the answers the same, so students have to use logic and thinking skills to assemble the entire puzzle correctly
  • Order of Difficulty – when students have finished the puzzle, get them to select the three most difficult pieces to match-up and explain what makes them tricky
  • Revision Lessons – get students to create Tarsia puzzles themselves on difficult topics (it is a free piece of software so can be installed on all school computers) and challenge each other to solve them
  • Worksheet – one criticism of Tarisa puzzles is that once completed students don’t have anything to take away with them as a record of their work or to help with their revision. This can easily be rectified by printing off a version of the Table page and blanking out the answers. This way students can fill in the answers as they create the puzzle and then take the completed sheet home as a record of their work
Thank you to Ann Hughes for sharing this week’s teaching tip. Ann has used a tarsia puzzle during a CPD session, so do ask her if you have any queries.