History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

Teaching Issues

Tarsia puzzles for engagement and fun

I am an old cynic – new ideas in  teaching pah! For my sins that used to be my initial view when I saw a new idea presented to me by colleague who doesn’t teach our noble subject.  But then I was introduced to this idea by an RE colleague. It must say it really grabbed me. So here is a short guide to Tarsia puzzles for engagement and fun.

Tarsias are popular in maths classrooms and teachers who are in the early years of their careers have probably already flicked on to another website because they have been using them for years. But I found them to be really motivational with difficult kids.


Basically a tarsia is a simple yet complex jigsaw puzzle that kids have to solve. They do it by having to match up sides of triangles so they correspond with another one. This building of triangles leads to them having to make some kind of shape, like a hexagon.

Sounds confusing, but I  created one on the French Revolution, which you can download here, with a difficult year 8 class the other week, and they simply loved it.  The class were essential massively mixed ability (level 3 to level 7 in English) and hadn’t had the best experience of history before I took them over.

I got groups of 4 competing against each other to see who would win by solving the puzzle first. Brilliant engagement and I could walk around for 10 minutes checking how they were all doing. This got them focused and we were then able to get to the main enquiry, which was focusing on the causes of the revolution.

I do have to say though that I ensured that the kids had some knowledge of the topic before we attempted the tarsia – and I don’t think that it creates real high level thinking. But for engagement, consolidation and access they are ace. What is more, they are really easy to create using the software you can download here.

Or you could use this online version of the software here.

Download the completed version of the tarsia here:

Free Download

Download the cutoutable version here to use with your classes:

Free Download
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