This one here is possibly one of the most difficult puzzles on the floor. And you go well how is that possible, it has the least number of pieces, surely this is going to be easy.
But there’s a particular reason why it’s quite difficult. Again for those folks who are familiar with the solution you’ll understand what I’m talking about here.
Your object is to use these four red bits and place them directly on top of the blue shaped T.
You have all the bits you need. There’s no overlap, so there’s no blue seen in any place and there’s no red that overlaps the blue.
And it can be done.
So I’ve basically answered most of your questions. You’ve got all the bits and it can be done. So those four bits, placed on there into a T shape.
(people solving t-puzzle)
How To Play Narrative
On its own, this puzzle can form part of your arrival activities, to keep people busy as they arrive, or as a full-blown small group initiative.
In advance, download the T-Puzzle template from the Resources tab. Print the template on cardboard, or if you’re feeling particularly industrious, cut the puzzle pieces on a sheet of plywood.
You’ll need one puzzle set (four pieces) for each person or small group you wish to challenge.
Small groups work best because the interaction between group members will provide an opportunity to build valuable team skills. Beside, it always feel better when you’re not the only person who hasn’t figured out a solution.
Having distributed the puzzle sets, issue this challenge – each group is to arrange the four pieces to produce the identical solid T shape as illustrated in the template.
After a few minutes, you are bound to be asked some questions. These questions are so common, allow me to give you the answers in advance (you can discern the questions:)
There is only one solution;
You have all the bits you need; and
It can be done.
Have a go yourself before you present this exercise to your group. Expect it to take longer than you think.
If you need to, contact me to ask for the solution.
Practical Leadership Tips
It is possible to purchase a commercial form of this puzzle in game stores and online. However, as you will likely need several sets, the most cost-effective method is to make your own, ie download one from the Resources tab.
You would think that with only four pieces, how hard could the solution be, right? Wrong. This puzzle is a classic example of the benefits of ‘thinking outside the square.’
There is a powerful teachable moment that can be drawn from the struggle some folks will experience in their efforts to discover the solution – generally speaking, our schools only teach us what to think, not how to think. For example, when presented with the challenge to produce the letter T, most of us will only ever think of drawing two straight lines, one perpendicular to the other. And therein lies the issue – you can’t solve this problem using two straight lines (that’s a hint.)
You could integrate T-Puzzle as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to understand their emotions, thoughts and values and how these influence behaviour in different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
This puzzle is difficult for most people when they are first introduced to it, so it is a perfect vehicle to explore and practise strategies for building resilience. A person with a resilient mindset will more likely persist to find a solution much longer than someone without. Thoughts of “this can’t be done” or “there are pieces missing” will pervade the mind of someone who is unable to tap into a reservoir of strategies that will keep them going. This is a great puzzle to encourage people to explore a problem from a different perspective or to challenge long-held assumptions.
Team Challenge: Distribute a T-Puzzle set to groups of two or three people. Ask one person to close their eyes, and instruct them to never speak or use any forms of verbal communication. Instruct the other group members to never touch the puzzle pieces, but they are entitled to issue a series of verbal instructions to help their ‘blind’ partner to solve the problem.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
In advance, share a digital copy of the T Puzzle template to each person and ask that they cut out the four pieces of the puzzle. In small groups, invite the group to work together to create the solution. This online version will test the communication and patience skills of your group so facilitate as required.
Supply (or arrange) only one person with the four puzzle pieces. If possible, focus the camera on the puzzle sitting on a table. Clearly, only one person can manipulate the puzzle and must be guided by the rest of their group members to move the pieces. An awesome task to focus on and develop communication, listening, planning and critical thinking skills.
For large groups, divide into smaller teams of 2 to 4 people and invite them to interact in their own breakout room to solve the problem. The first group to solve the puzzle and share a photograph of the solution wins (if that’s important.)
Classic team puzzle that focuses on critical thinking.
Challenging puzzle to teach the power of synergy.
Fun puzzle to inspire teamwork & critical thinking.
Useful Framing Ideas
Knowing how to think laterally, or think ‘outside the square’ is a really valuable life skill. Often a solution is staring us in the face, but we just can’t see it until we view the problem from a different perspective or through a different lens. Some of you will see the solution in the next exercise very quickly, while others will struggle for a long time. In either case, I invite every one of you to think creatively about this next problem…
Looking at this puzzle, you would think that with only four pieces, it would be very easy to solve. And yes, while the solution is, in fact, very simple, you may not see it immediately. Or indeed, even after several minutes. Put on your creative thinking caps and work together to solve this puzzle…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fascinating team puzzle:
Describe your experience of solving this puzzle?
Why do you think you struggled to find a solution?
What did you tell yourself while you searched for a solution?
Did you make any assumptions? How did they impact your results?
What might this exercise say about solving problems?
The inspiration for T-Puzzle was sourced from Pam Wood, a corporate training colleague of mine who employed this fantastic puzzle in a team-building program we worked on together in the early 1990s.