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First Day of Math Class Activity - Pentominoes Revisited

Back at the beginning of August, I wrote about using pentominoes on the first day of math class. I used this activity again today, on the first day of math with my new classes, and I am so glad that I did!

I was again so impressed with the way the students worked together and were so persistent in trying to make that rectangle! I did give the class a hint after about 10 minutes or so, showing them the 2 pentominoes that go at the top of the rectangle. I have a magnetic set that I can use on the blackboard, which is pretty handy.

In all classes, we spent about 20-25 minutes working on the task, which was longer than last year, I believe. And, I think I waited a little longer this year before giving them any hints, because we had more time.

In my first two classes, only one group finished (after using the hint....or two), and they finished at the very end of the period. In my 3rd and 4th classes, a group finished early enough to go around to the other groups and offer them help. It was fun to watch them go back to check their finished rectangle to be sure that they didn't steer the other groups wrong.... and they were so willing to help the other students.

It was a great math day!

AND, I remembered to take pictures this year!


  1. This was one of my favorite activities, as well. However, you're much nicer than I was.

    I made the kids find all the pentamino shapes first and then try to figure out the puzzle. The closest I came to giving them a game board was a hint: How many pentaminoes are there? How many total tiles? What are the possible areas using 60 tiles? Which one makes the most sense? Oh, and I never did give them the answer. It made a great go-to activity for later as they persistently tried to figure it out.

    It was also my favorite go-to activity during those long, arduous inservices. I had a graph paper notebook that had several 6 X 10 attempts to remember the solution. ;)

    Hope you have a terrific year!
    Desktop Learning Adventures

    1. Pam,
      Thanks for the great ideas! Would I be able to fit what you did into 20 minutes? (About how long did it take them to find the shapes first?)
      I really haven't used pentominoes for anything other than this activity...I inherited the sets I have from another teacher. So, I'm definitely not as experienced with them as you are. If I find time to go back to them this year, I will...and 'll put more thought into what we can do with them. If not, you've given me more to challenge them with next year. Thank you!


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