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Shape It Up

Shape It Up

The Puzzle Corner this week comes from the great American puzzle genius of a century ago, Sam Loyd, and was originally published with the name “The Royal Road to Mathematics.” Shape It Up, as we have renamed it, is similar to tangrams, but uses only five pieces that are all different from each other, unlike the seven tangram pieces which include several duplicate shapes. In this activity, students are challenged to cut out the five shapes and use them to make eight geometric figures. (In order to help you conserve paper, each student will need only half of the first student page.)

This activity will challenge students’ spatial visualization abilities as they learn to see how the five puzzle pieces can be put together to form each of the eight figures. Students can be told that puzzle pieces may be flipped over however, there is at least one solution for each shape which does not require this. For older students there is also the potential to discuss geometry as they identify the characteristics of the figures they create. Once students have solved the eight figures given, they can be challenged to create their own figures and trade them with classmates to solve. In fact, if your students come up with any especially creative or unusual figures using the five puzzle pieces, send us copies of their work.

Carefully cut out the five shapes below. Use them to make each of the figures below.

Activity 1 Outlines

Make each of the following figures with your five pieces. Each figure must use all five pieces. Make a record of each solution you discover. (Some figures may have more than one solution.)

Activity Two Shapes

Extra challenge: Create some more irregular shapes like the Seahorse and the Rabbit. Make a picture of each, and trade them with your classmates to solve.


Click the arrow below to view the solutions.

Here are some of the possible solutions for this puzzle. Others are possible.

Shape It Up Solutions 

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