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Tarp Challenge

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Short description of activity:  Students work together to fold a tarp into a shape being able to identify its attributes.

Type of activity: Content Connection, Team-building, Energizer

Minimum Time Needed for Activity: 10- 15 min

Grade Level: 2nd – 5th

Subject Area: Geometry


  • Tarp, sheet, tablecloth or sturdy dropcloth for each group.
  • Optimal size is about 4’x6’

Set up:

  1. Choose a large space where tarps can be opened fully and students/participants have enough room to walk and move around.
  2. Divide students/participants into groups and give one tarp to each group. Try to have no more than 4-6 students per tarp.
  3. Remind everyone that the activity is not a race and the team should take their time to focus on working together to make the shape correctly and to be able to explain how and why it fits the attributes of that shape.


  1. Direct students to fold the tarp into simple geometric shapes (square, rectangle, triangle, pentagon, octagon, etc.)
    • Give direction saying the name of the shape: “fold the tarp into a hexagon” After the tarp is folded, have students name the attributes that make it that shape.
    • Give the direction using attributes: “fold the tarp into a shape with six equal sides” have the students identify the attributes as well as the name.
  2. Direct students to fold the tarp into the shape of a house or other simple common object.
  3. Direct students to fold the tarp so that the four corners touch.
  4. Direct students to fold the tarp into a letter or number (V, W, S).


  1. A tarp might be too large of a leap to go from a hand-held shape to 4’ x 6’. Potentially try a mid-step using flipchart paper or sheet from a newspaper so the students can practice seeing and making the shape with a smaller size first.
  2. Students may not talk.
  3. Students may only use their left or right hand, but not both.
  4. Tell one or two students on a team what the shape is. They in turn, without saying the name of the shape, stepwise instruct the other students how to fold the tarp to make the shape.
  5. Tell one or two students on a team what the shape is. The remainder of the students ask yes/no questions about the attributes and begin to fold the tarp accordingly
    • Students may not ask: “is it a triangle?”, they may only ask attributes “does it have 4 sides?” “are all sides equal in length”


Math > Geometry > Reason with shapes and their attributes.

Math > Geometry > Draw and identify lines and angles, and classify shapes by properties of their lines and angles.

Math > Geometry >Classify two-dimensional figures into categories based on their properties.

Adapted from a FlagHouse Activity guide

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