Back to School Ice Breaker Puzzle Activity

Are you looking for an activity to use for back to school? You can’t lose with a fun icebreaker! This set of puzzles is challenging and guaranteed to make every student think whether they want to or not!


Here are some pictures from my rough draft before creating this activity.  I created the entire activity on the computer, and was looking forward to print it out to have my fiancé try it to assess the difficulty level.  I went to my printer to print the activity, and was greeted by an angry printer that just kept eating my paper.  I was flabbergasted because I have only used my printer a couple times before, and it was brand new when I got it!  Also, it is telling me that I am almost out of ink… but I thought my ink was new too!  Either someone has been secretly using my printer, or it just decided to betray me.  Needless to say,I was super disappointed.  I just sat there with a frown on my face for what seemed like a few minutes.  Then, I realized, that I could just grab some paper, pencils, colored pencils, crayons, a ruler, and some fabulous folding and tracing skills to test this activity.  As I was recreating the activity that I made on the computer, I was constantly reminded that math is SO cool!  Equilateral triangles can form so many patters… so can right triangles!  Playing around with the shapes was a lot of fun.  I would love to come up with some new criteria and shapes and create some unique puzzles.

Note:  These puzzle pieces do not “go together”, but here are all the pieces sorted by number.


Once I finished creating the puzzles, I took pictures of them before cutting them out so that I would have something to refer to if I got confused later.  Then, I cut out the pieces.  I tried putting the puzzle together, but it was taking too long, so I decided to make some adjustments to change the difficulty of the puzzle set.  In the process, I discovered two great ways to lower the difficulty level:

1.  Make sure that all the numbers are facing the same direction.  (See the example above)  By having all the numbers face the direction, the puzzle could have quickly became too easy (especially if this fact is given out as a clue), so I decided to write the numbers facing all directions to start.  Later, I decided to change it to increase the ease of making the product, and to make the puzzle easier (once the clue is given out).

2.  Color code to change difficulty levels instantly!  This activity has 6 puzzles with 4 pieces in each puzzle.  I chose these numbers on purpose because they offered flexibility when determining the difficulty level.  On top of that, having a nice number like 6 allows you to easily discard 2-4 puzzles without affecting the results.

Here is how I created the difficulty levels:

  1. Easy (1 blue, 1 purple, 1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green, and 1 orange):  6 puzzles, all different colors, 4 pieces in each puzzle
  2. Average (2 blue, 2 purple, 2 red):  6 puzzles, 2 of each color, 4 pieces in each puzzle
  3. Difficult (3 yellow, 3 green):  6 puzzles, 3 of each color, 4 pieces in each puzzle
  4. Mega Challenge (6 orange):  6 puzzles, all the same color, 4 pieces in each puzzle

Other ways to change the difficulty:  take out and entire puzzle or set of puzzles.

An Example of a Completed Puzzle (1 of 6):


Puzzles Sorted by Color: 8 Pieces (2 Puzzles) per Color


As you can see from the picture above, a simple paperclip (yes, that is a mini-gel pen… but same concept as a paper clip) will suffice.  You can store the pieces in a plastic bag, in pencil pouches, or pencil boxes.

Walmart    Pinterest

Read more about the icebreaker puzzles here.

Purchase a printable version that is ready to use here.