An article for teachers which first appeared in the MA's Equals journal, featuring activities which use counters.

If you put three beads onto a tens/ones abacus you could make the numbers 3, 30, 12 or 21. What numbers can be made with six beads?

Can you deduce the pattern that has been used to lay out these bottle tops?

Use the ratio of cashew nuts to peanuts to find out how many peanuts Rachel has. What would the ratio be if Rachel and Marianne mixed their bags?

Place eight queens on an chessboard (an 8 by 8 grid) so that none can capture any of the others.

What is the least number of moves you can take to rearrange the bears so that no bear is next to a bear of the same colour?

This project challenges you to work out the number of cubes hidden under a cloth. What questions would you like to ask?

In a bowl there are 4 Chocolates, 3 Jellies and 5 Mints. Find a way to share the sweets between the three children so they each get the kind they like. Is there more than one way to do it?

Arrange 3 red, 3 blue and 3 yellow counters into a three-by-three square grid, so that there is only one of each colour in every row and every column

Place eight dots on this diagram, so that there are only two dots on each straight line and only two dots on each circle.

Arrange any number of counters from these 18 on the grid to make a rectangle. What numbers of counters make rectangles? How many different rectangles can you make with each number of counters?

What is the greatest number of counters you can place on the grid below without four of them lying at the corners of a square?

Put 10 counters in a row. Find a way to arrange the counters into five pairs, evenly spaced in a row, in just 5 moves, using the rules.

Jack has nine tiles. He put them together to make a square so that two tiles of the same colour were not beside each other. Can you find another way to do it?

Here are some ideas to try in the classroom for using counters to investigate number patterns.

Take a counter and surround it by a ring of other counters that MUST touch two others. How many are needed?

The game uses a 3x3 square board. 2 players take turns to play, either placing a red on an empty square, or changing a red to orange, or orange to green. The player who forms 3 of 1 colour in a line. . . .

A game for 2 players. Can be played online. One player has 1 red counter, the other has 4 blue. The red counter needs to reach the other side, and the blue needs to trap the red.

Investigate the different shaped bracelets you could make from 18 different spherical beads. How do they compare if you use 24 beads?

Rocco ran in a 200 m race for his class. Use the information to find out how many runners there were in the race and what Rocco's finishing position was.