What are Tarsia Jigsaw files?
Tarsia is a piece of freely available software which allows teachers
to create a wide range of jigsaws, domino and follow-me activities
Why are Tarisas so great?
I have been using Tarisa igsaws for the past 10 years of my teaching
- 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
- Key Point: There are plenty of ways of adding richness
and challenge to Tarsia jisaw activities, as I explain in the "Twists"
How can I get the software?
The software is available to download for free from via this
Scroll down to the bottom of the page for “Formulator Tarsia
If that link isn't working, then you can also get the installer
Screen shots and instructions are available via this
How can teachers use Tarsia Jigsaws - the standard way!
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. Please see the bottom of
this page for a note about images in Tarsia Jigsaws.
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.
Tarsia Jigsaws - Possible Twists and Variations
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.
• Tarsia: Convince Me – in
my opinion, this is the ultimate way to use Tarsia Jigsaw activities!
They work like this:
- Create a Tarsia (or adapt an original one) so that it contains (at
least) 5 mistakes, and ensure these mistakes highlight common misconceptions
students have with a particular topic
- Print off the solution slide and give it to your students (much
less photocopying and no needing for scissors!)
- The student must find (at least) 5 incorrectly matched up elements,
convince you that each one is incorrect explaining the mistake that
has been made, and then decide what the answer should have been
- Better still, include a ? instead of an answer
and challenge students to replace the ? with the
- Include a ?? instead of a question, and challenge
students to come up with lots of different questions to replace ??
that could give the answer. A selection of these questions can then
be given to other students to use as a rich, challenging, pupil-created
This can all be set out beautifully in their exercise book, providing
a challenging, rich, worthwhile activity :-) Click
here for an example of a Tarsia Convince Me activity on factors,
multiples and primes
• "No Answers" Worksheet
– one criticsm of Tarsia is that once the students have completed
the puzzle they have no record/evidence of their work and also no
revision material. Gill Hillitt has a solution... simply print out
the "Table" page and blank out the answers. Hand this out
to the students alongside the jigsaw and they can fill in their answers
here as they go. When the jigsaw has been completed, they then have
a lovely record of their work. Nice. Top Tip: To blank out answers, delete them on the
input screen, but add a space (press the space-bar), otherwise you
may find the answer returns!
• Supplementary Sheets –
make Tarsia jigsaws much more versatile with supplentary sheets. These
may invovles pictures of statistical diagrams to interpret, or even
secrets codes to reveal the mystery word. There are examples of all
of these in my Tarsia jigsaw collection.
• Distractors – when creating
(or adapting) a Tarsia and you are on the Input screen, there are
tabs labelled "d1", "d2", etc. Here you can place
"distractors" - i.e. a question that does not match to any
of the answers, or an answer that does not match to any question.
These will always land on the outside of the final, successfully completed
jigsaw, and provide an excellent extra challenge for students.
• 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 (or better
still, a mystery number of mistakes!) in the puzzle and students must
assemble the jigsaw, identify the mistakes, and correct them
• 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
Tarsia Jigsaws: Top Tips!
1. Leaving spaces between text
You may have discovered that if you try to type
words into the Tarsia jigsaw input screen (e.g. "I Love Maths"),
when you come to print the jigsaw, they appear all together, with
no spaces, like this: "ILoveMaths". To solve this,
you need to go to Style in the top toolbar, and change from Math to
Text. That should solve the problem.
2. To blank out answers Very useful for creating worksheets
as discussed above. Simply delete answers on the input screen, but
add a space (press the space-bar), otherwise you may find the answer
3 . Handling images 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. You
can find more details on adding images to Tarsia courtesy of Alan
Catley by clicking here.
However, there is an alternative! Once you have
placed the images in your Tarsia, you can convert Output page(s) into
a pdf. This will then retain all your images, enabling you to share
the file much more easily. The downside is that you won't be able
to edit the Tarisa as it will be locked in the pdf, but this might
be an ideal solution to get round the image issue. A nice, free pdf
converter is PrimoPdf.
There may well be the odd error that sneaks into these jigsaws. If
you spot one, please let me know. But also, why not turn the errors
into a greater challenge for the students! I love a "deliberate"
Sharing Tarsia Jigsaw Files:
These jigsaw files are proving immensely popular and extremely useful,
so if you have any of your own jigsaw files which you would like to
share, then please drop me an email at
. The more the merrier! Thank you...
Many thanks to the following people for kindly donating their jigsaws
to the bundle: Peter Brooks, Plant
Hill Arts College, Manchester
Judith de Villiers, Folkestone Academy, Kent
Steve Wren, Comberton Village College, Cambridge
Nisha Ganatra, Lea Manor High School, Luton
Samantha Green, The Cheltenham Ladies College,
John White, Secondary Maths Consultant, Swindon
Karen Walker, Poltair School, St. Austell
Jenny Andrews, Richard Hale School, Hertford
Sam Powell, Sheldon Heath Community Arts College,
Nyima Drayang, Seaham School of Technology
William Leonard, Bullerswood, Bromley
Vikki Sutton, Holmesdale Technology College
James Gatrell, St John Plessington Catholic
Kevin Alderson, Newcastle College
Gill Hillitt, Joseph Chamberlain College,
Sarah Pearson, Taipei Eurpoean School
Simon Young, Erith School
Steve Sherman and Pupils, Tytherington High