8 Sticks Puzzle - Printable Version and Google Slides Version

Yesterday, I bemoaned the loss of my classroom puzzle corner. I've been trying to come up with some ways to keep incorporating puzzles in my classroom in a pandemic-friendly manner. My favorite puzzles are the ones with pieces that students can manipulate. This leaves me two options. I can shift to posting puzzles in my classroom that can be solved using only your mind. Alternatively, I can try to create virtual puzzles. I'm not thrilled with either path, but I think either of these options is better than no puzzles at all.

Yesterday, Elizabeth Provencal tweeted me to ask if she could recreate my Factoring Monic Quadratics Activity in Google Slides. Of course, I agreed.

When she tweeted the results, I was intrigued by the fact that her Google Slides link automatically created a copy in the user's google drive folder. Check it out yourself here. I started to think that this would be a useful thing to be able to do if I recreated some of my puzzles in Google Slides.

Earlier this summer, I did manage to make one new puzzle for my classroom before realizing that there was no way I would be teaching in a classroom where my typical style of puzzles would be allowed any time soon.

The Eight Sticks Puzzle is from Amusement in Mathematics by Henry Ernest Dudeney. The book is available for free through Project Gutenberg.

The puzzle: Arrange all eight sticks (four of them being exactly half the length of the others) to form three squares, all of the same size. The sticks may overlap, but there must be no loose ends hanging out.

Originally, it was worded "Arrange the eight sticks," but my husband tried solving the puzzle with only six of the sticks. So I changed the wording to "all eight sticks" to emphasize to students that they needed to use ALL the sticks.

To make my classroom version which I can't use, I just took a letter sized piece of paper and cut it up with my paper chopper.

With the paper in landscape orientation, I cut 6 one inch strips.

Then, I cut two of those one inch strips in half. This left me with eight sticks (four of them being exactly half the length of the others).

I will say this wasn't the easiest thing to do with only one hand since I was still in a cast from my hand surgery at this point in the summer.

I took the resulting eight strips of paper and placed them in a laminating sheet.

Then, I ran them through my trusty Scotch laminator (only $20 from Walmart!) before cutting them apart.

If school ever returns to normal, I plan on putting magnets on the back of the sticks so students can manipulate them easily. In the mean time, I guess I'll be trying to figure out how to incorporate my new Google Slides version of this puzzle. I'm not sure how effective it will be when used with students because I've never tried using anything like this with students.

And, honestly, I'm still not sure how to use it with students. With my magnetic puzzles, I never promoted them to students. They just noticed them on the wall and were instantly drawn in. With a puzzle on Google Slides, I have to be a bit more involved in getting students involved. Maybe I just post a link in Google Classroom on Mondays and see who bites? This is totally new territory for me. I welcome any and all ideas!

After some googling, I learned how to share a link to the puzzle that forces each user to make a copy to their own google drive. It turns out it's as easy as a quick edit to the URL that google gives you to share with others. Maybe everyone else already knows about this trick, but in case you're like me and didn't know how to share a document that always creates a new copy, here are the instructions.

Here's the link to download your own copy of my Google Slides version of the 8 Sticks Puzzle. Want a download of the original instructions? You can download them here.

Now, I'm off to add my second sticker to my Blaugust Blogging Challenge Calendar. See you back here tomorrow with more thoughts about this upcoming crazy school year.