Make Your Own: Pythagoras Plates

As a homeschooler, $350 for a few plates that demonstrate the Pythagorean Theorem is not realistic for our family. FunGirl will most likely see the material once, internalize it, and never want to look at it again. Daisy is more likely to come back to the puzzle a few times, but it won’t get a huge amount of use.

$350? Yikes!

Clearly I needed to make my own version.

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I’ve tried a couple of different materials for the traditional metal frame materials. When I made equivalence frames I used craft foam. Craft foam is ok. I wouldn’t use it again. It jumps around too much and isn’t very thick. When I made my fraction pieces I used plastic file folders for the pieces and thick cardboard for the frames. I like this combination better, but the file folder plastic is still thin and my kids sometimes find it frustrating.

This time, I decided to try magnets! Something magnetic would certainly stop the pieces jumping around. However I still didn’t want the pieces to be too thin. A little research told me that my Cricut should cut up to 2mm thick. Magnet sheets are measured in mils, and 60 mil magnet sheets are about 1.5mm thick. The cheapest option was a set of five 8×10 adhesive sheets.

The sheets are thick, heavy, and very satisfying.

To add to color, I used sheets of Oracel Intermediate Cal 651 from Michael’s. So as to not waste magnet sheets, my technique was a little funny! In the Cricut software, I arranged my pieces into the smallest space possible, then cut vinyl to cover the area. I peeled off just enough backing on the adhesive magnet to apply the vinyl, then cut.

To cut the magnet sheets I set the Cricut to the ‘Custom Materials’ setting. I clicked ‘Browse All Materials,’ then ‘Material Settings.’ After scrolling to the bottom, I added a new material ’60 mil Magnet Sheet’ and set it to a 350 cut pressure, with a 5x multi-cut and the deep-point blade.

Even with all the pressure and passes, the Cricut doesn’t cut all the way through the magnet sheet, however you can see on the back side that the cut is almost through. A little bending and flexing of the cut, and the rest of the cut broke quite cleanly enough for me. Repeat for other colors.

I did end up with some air bubbles. A little blog reading tells me that the little ones often go away over time. For the larger ones, I used a very thin needle to poke a little hold in the vinyl, and they smoothed right out.

I’ve decided to only make the two Pythagorean frames, and skip the Euclidean one. As far as I can tell, the Euclidean frame teaches equivalence between a rectangle and a parallelogram. I feel that I can do this quite simple with the Geometric Stick material, the Yellow Area material, or the Constructive Triangles. As you can see in the top photo, the frame for an isosceles right-angled triangle usually has two recesses. This wouldn’t fit on my 8×10 sheets. For now, I’m only going to cut the one frame. If I feel that I really need to have both parts side by side, I have one magnet sheet left, and I’ll cut one more.

It is quite hard to get the pieces in and out of the frame, and pulling at them with a fingernail might pull the vinyl off (though with the combination of adhesive magnet and adhesive vinyl, I don’t think so!) so I poked a small hole through the middle of each inset piece with a compass, and inserted a brad for a handle.

I’m really happy with how these came out. We can use them on a baking sheet or a white board – or just on the floor as a puzzle. It’s quite thick enough. I may decide to buy this set of two 8×10 toaster oven baking sheets, which will have plenty of space to store my extra pieces!

Want to make your own?