Secondary Maths Collection – Tarsia – An Introduction to Tarsia

TES Secondary maths resource collections

Collection Author: Craig Barton - Maths AST and creator of (TES Name: mrbartonmaths)

What is it?

Tarsia is a piece of freely available software which allows teachers to create a wide range of jigsaws, domino and follow-me activities very easily.

How can I get the software?

The software is available to download from via this link:

Scroll down to the bottom of the page for “Formulator Tarsia Installation Package”

The download software also includes a comprehensive user-guide

Screen shots and instructions are available via this link:

How can teachers use it?

The advantages of this software are:

  • You can easily create wide range of activities, including jigsaws of various shapes and sizes, dominoes, matching rectangular cards and follow-me cards.
  • The teacher does not need to spend time cutting up the jigsaw as the software automatically jumbles up the pieces of the jigsaw in the Output section, thus allowing the teacher to simply print out a copy and hand it to the students to cut out and assemble.

Having selected what type of activity they wish to create, teachers use the Input screen to input as many questions and answers as they like. The software has a built-in equation editor to ensure that all mathematical symbols and expressions are available, and supports the importing of images. Teachers can then check their answers on the Table screen, before printing out the jumbled up version for the students. They can then either print out the solution or project it onto their interactive whiteboard for the students to check their answers. Completed jigsaws also make nice classroom displays.

Tarsia Jigsaw activities are incredibly versatile, and can be used for many mathematical topics and all ability levels. They promote group work and discussion, and provide a nice alternative to doing questions out of a textbook. They are an ideal way to revise or consolidate a topic. Furthermore, they can be differentiated – by writing questions of varying difficulty, you can ensure that all students can access some of the activity whilst also providing extension material for the most able.

Possible Twists?

With a bit of tweaking, Tarsia puzzles can be made even more challenging, pushing your students to think even more about the topic in hand. Ideas include:

  • Missing Answers – choose a couple of the cards and leave the answer (or even the question!) blank so students have to fill them in for themselves
  • Deliberate Mistakes – announce at the start of the activity that you have made two mistakes in the puzzle and students must identify them and correct them
  • Use the Extended Hexagon so students do not know where the edges of the jigsaw are
  • Non-unique Solutions – have a couple of the answers the same, so students have to use logic and thinking skills to assemble the entire puzzle correctly
  • Order of Difficulty – when students have finished the puzzle, get them to select the three most difficult pieces to match-up and explain what makes them tricky
  • Revision Lessons – get students to create Tarsia puzzles themselves on difficult topics (it is a free piece of software so can be installed on all school computers) and challenge each other to solve them
  • Worksheet – one criticism of Tarisa puzzles is that once completed students don’t have anything to take away with them as a record of their work or to help with their revision. This can easily be rectified by printing off a version of the Table page and blanking out the answers. This way students can fill in the answers as they create the puzzle and then take the completed sheet home as a record of their work.

Handling pictures in Tarsia and sharing them

Good news – you can insert images into Tarsia. Bad news - Tarsia does not insert an image instead it inserts a link to the absolute address of the image. This means that if the images are then moved the jigsaw will lose contact and you will end up with those annoying red rectangles.

This is fine if you are creating a jigsaw to be shared on a network, so long as you first put all the images you want to use where they can be accessed by everyone you want to share with.

However, if you wish to simply copy a jigsaw which contains images, then not only do the images need to be copied to where they will be accessible but also all the links will need to be changed! Alas, I have found no way of getting around this.

Below are ten of my favourite Tarsia puzzles to get you started:

Tarsia – Substitution (a = 5, b = -3, c = 2)

Tarsia - 2D Shape Properties

Tarsia – Solving Equations (x on both sides)

Tarsia – Straight Line Graphs (with co-ordinates)

Tarsia – Given one answer, find the other

Tarsia – Fractions, Decimals and Percentages

Tarsia – The Rules of Indices

Tarsia - Averages

Tarsia – Simple Probability (from Playing Cards)

Tarsia – 24 Hour Clock

TES Secondary maths teaching resources