In this article for teachers, Bernard gives an example of taking an
initial activity and getting questions going that lead to other
Bernard Bagnall looks at what 'problem solving' might really mean
in the context of primary classrooms.
In this challenge, you will work in a group to investigate circular
fences enclosing trees that are planted in square or triangular
When newspaper pages get separated at home we have to try to sort
them out and get things in the correct order. How many ways can we
arrange these pages so that the numbering may be different?
This problem is based on the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Investigate the different numbers of people and rats there could have been if you know how many legs there are altogether!
If the answer's 2010, what could the question be?
Ana and Ross looked in a trunk in the attic. They found old cloaks
and gowns, hats and masks. How many possible costumes could they
I like to walk along the cracks of the paving stones, but not the
outside edge of the path itself. How many different routes can you
find for me to take?
You cannot choose a selection of ice cream flavours that includes
totally what someone has already chosen. Have a go and find all the
different ways in which seven children can have ice cream.
If we had 16 light bars which digital numbers could we make? How
will you know you've found them all?
This tricky challenge asks you to find ways of going across rectangles, going through exactly ten squares.
Why does the tower look a different size in each of these pictures?
How many different sets of numbers with at least four members can
you find in the numbers in this box?
How many shapes can you build from three red and two green cubes? Can you use what you've found out to predict the number for four red and two green?
48 is called an abundant number because it is less than the sum of
its factors (without itself). Can you find some more abundant
In how many ways can you stack these rods, following the rules?
Bernard Bagnall describes how to get more out of some favourite
Explore Alex's number plumber. What questions would you like to
ask? Don't forget to keep visiting NRICH projects site for the
latest developments and questions.
If you have three circular objects, you could arrange them so that
they are separate, touching, overlapping or inside each other. Can
you investigate all the different possibilities?
Investigate the different ways you could split up these rooms so
that you have double the number.
Suppose we allow ourselves to use three numbers less than 10 and
multiply them together. How many different products can you find?
How do you know you've got them all?
A group of children are discussing the height of a tall tree. How would you go about finding out its height?
Explore Alex's number plumber. What questions would you like to ask? What do you think is happening to the numbers?
"Ip dip sky blue! Who's 'it'? It's you!" Where would you position yourself so that you are 'it' if there are two players? Three players ...?
When Charlie asked his grandmother how old she is, he didn't get a
straightforward reply! Can you work out how old she is?
Arrange eight of the numbers between 1 and 9 in the Polo Square
below so that each side adds to the same total.
The challenge here is to find as many routes as you can for a fence
to go so that this town is divided up into two halves, each with 8
In a Magic Square all the rows, columns and diagonals add to the 'Magic Constant'. How would you change the magic constant of this square?
What happens when you add the digits of a number then multiply the
result by 2 and you keep doing this? You could try for different
numbers and different rules.
Try continuing these patterns made from triangles. Can you create your own repeating pattern?
Can you continue this pattern of triangles and begin to predict how many sticks are used for each new "layer"?
Explore ways of colouring this set of triangles. Can you make
Take a look at these data collected by children in 1986 as part of the Domesday Project. What do they tell you? What do you think about the way they are presented?
How many different shaped boxes can you design for 36 sweets in one
layer? Can you arrange the sweets so that no sweets of the same
colour are next to each other in any direction?
Take 5 cubes of one colour and 2 of another colour. How many
different ways can you join them if the 5 must touch the table and
the 2 must not touch the table?
Let's say you can only use two different lengths - 2 units and 4
units. Using just these 2 lengths as the edges how many different
cuboids can you make?
Place four pebbles on the sand in the form of a square. Keep adding as few pebbles as necessary to double the area. How many extra pebbles are added each time?
Can you find out how the 6-triangle shape is transformed in these
tessellations? Will the tessellations go on for ever? Why or why
Sort the houses in my street into different groups. Can you do it in any other ways?
In this investigation, you must try to make houses using cubes. If
the base must not spill over 4 squares and you have 7 cubes which
stand for 7 rooms, what different designs can you come up with?
In my local town there are three supermarkets which each has a
special deal on some products. If you bought all your shopping in
one shop, where would be the cheapest?
An activity making various patterns with 2 x 1 rectangular tiles.
Can you make these equilateral triangles fit together to cover the
paper without any gaps between them? Can you tessellate isosceles
Polygonal numbers are those that are arranged in shapes as they enlarge. Explore the polygonal numbers drawn here.
Follow the directions for circling numbers in the matrix. Add all
the circled numbers together. Note your answer. Try again with a
different starting number. What do you notice?
Using different numbers of sticks, how many different triangles are
you able to make? Can you make any rules about the numbers of
sticks that make the most triangles?
Can you find ways of joining cubes together so that 28 faces are
Here is your chance to investigate the number 28 using shapes,
cubes ... in fact anything at all.
Complete these two jigsaws then put one on top of the other. What
happens when you add the 'touching' numbers? What happens when you
change the position of the jigsaws?
Make new patterns from simple turning instructions. You can have a
go using pencil and paper or with a floor robot.