Using Explain Everything for Hands-On Digital Puzzles

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 9.35.23 AMYou know, I really like the way that guy Jon Orr thinks.  Using non-mathy apps for potentially unintended purposes to engage learners is something I like to do, and I think Mr. Orr has a knack for similar app twists.  I don’t know how I missed it the first time around, but his post on using Explain Everything for more than screen recordings was inspiring to me.  As soon as I saw his projects, I knew I wanted to convert a few of my own puzzles from paper to an Explain Everything digital format.

As we revisit factoring to solve quadratic equations later this week, I want students to give this puzzle a try.  I’d love to give credit where it’s due for the original PDF file, but I’m not sure where I got it.  So whoever you are, thanks for making this! 🙂

To make the EE puzzle, I took a screenshot of each of the 16 puzzle pieces.  I added each of these images to an EE slide, uploaded the EE project to Google Drive as Mr. Orr suggests, and made the project file editable in Google’s share settings so you and your students can manipulate it.  Here’s what the screen looks like at first:


…and here’s a sample key:


Additionally, when our unit on exponents and radicals rolls around, I plan to use this puzzle as a warm-up.  I created this originally as a “BIG HUGE PUZZLE” printed on paper so student groups could assemble it together (which I may still like better than this digital format, simply for the student discourse the big paper puzzle pieces encourage) but I want to give it a go in digital format this time as a time-saver.  This is a review topic with a sprinkling of expressions in simplest radical form (which will be a new idea for kiddos).  Original screen:


…and sample answer key:



Quite a versatile strategy!

Want to share these files with your students?  Grab ’em here:

Explain Everything Factoring Puzzle

Explain Everything Radical Puzzle


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11 Responses to Using Explain Everything for Hands-On Digital Puzzles

  1. Elizabeth says:

    This is a great use of Explain Everything! I enjoy giving puzzles like this as checks for understanding and agree that the digital versions can be much quicker and neater. This could probably also be extended to other puzzle-type activities (like the quadratics chain transformations you recently re-shared on Twitter).

    On the topic of non-math apps with potential for math use – have you revisited Aurasma (or other augmented reality apps) in your classroom? I notice you looked at the app back in 2012 but still haven’t seen a lot of math-based examples of effective augmented reality. As of now I use Aurasma to enrich the word wall in my classroom, but I think there must be some even more exciting uses possible along these lines!

    • Cathy Yenca says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth!

      I haven’t used any AR apps for math, but I tend to use QR codes quite a bit. One of my colleagues, a French teacher, is making our middle school an AR school by placing targets on common objects. Students scan the common objects to learn what they’re called in French. Neat-o!

  2. David Petro says:

    I like the use of Explain Everything for this type of Puzzle. I wonder if you are aware of these Tarsia puzzles and subsequent Puzzle generator software (Windows only, however) There are hundreds of premade puzzles that are all editable
    We generally make our own using the software, here are a couple examples that we created

    • Cathy Yenca says:

      Hello! Since we are a 1:1 iPad school, I’m not sure students can use the puzzles you mention. Perhaps they will be helpful to other readers. Thank you for sharing!

      • David Petro says:

        The software is only used to create the PDFs of the puzzle pieces which you could print and then cut out if you wanted kids to create the puzzles in an old school analogue way. In your case, however, you could use the software to create the puzzles (they can be made in different shapes with different shaped pieces). Then just cut them up digitally to import into your Explain Everything app. The nice thing about the software is that you just enter the questions and answers and it randomly positions them on the pieces for printing.

        • Cathy Yenca says:

          Sweet! Possible to use the software on a Mac?

          • David Petro says:

            like I said, it’s Windows only so you would have to be running something like Bootcamp or Parallels to run Windows on your Mac. I know, boooo

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  5. Caryn Trautz says:


    Love this idea! I’ve purchased a few of your puzzles and printed them/cut them out to use them, but I like this way of distributing them to the kids instead (save some trees too!). I’ll have to give it a try! Thanks for sharing!

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