In this article for teachers, Bernard gives an example of taking an
initial activity and getting questions going that lead to other
In this challenge, you will work in a group to investigate circular
fences enclosing trees that are planted in square or triangular
Bernard Bagnall looks at what 'problem solving' might really mean
in the context of primary classrooms.
If we had 16 light bars which digital numbers could we make? How
will you know you've found them all?
A group of children are discussing the height of a tall tree. How would you go about finding out its height?
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?
This tricky challenge asks you to find ways of going across rectangles, going through exactly ten squares.
In how many ways can you stack these rods, following the rules?
Bernard Bagnall describes how to get more out of some favourite
Well now, what would happen if we lost all the nines in our number
system? Have a go at writing the numbers out in this way and have a
look at the multiplications table.
Arrange eight of the numbers between 1 and 9 in the Polo Square
below so that each side adds to the same total.
Investigate the different ways you could split up these rooms so
that you have double the number.
How many different sets of numbers with at least four members can
you find in the numbers in this box?
Why does the tower look a different size in each of these pictures?
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.
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.
When Charlie asked his grandmother how old she is, he didn't get a
straightforward reply! Can you work out how old she is?
"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 ...?
If the answer's 2010, what could the question be?
48 is called an abundant number because it is less than the sum of
its factors (without itself). Can you find some more abundant
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!
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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
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
Explore Alex's number plumber. What questions would you like to ask? What do you think is happening to the numbers?
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.
Start with four numbers at the corners of a square and put the
total of two corners in the middle of that side. Keep going... Can
you estimate what the size of the last four numbers will be?
What is the largest cuboid you can wrap in an A3 sheet of paper?
In this investigation, you are challenged to make mobile phone
numbers which are easy to remember. What happens if you make a
sequence adding 2 each time?
What is the smallest cuboid that you can put in this box so that
you cannot fit another that's the same into it?
What do these two triangles have in common? How are they related?
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?
These caterpillars have 16 parts. What different shapes do they make if each part lies in the small squares of a 4 by 4 square?
Explore the different tunes you can make with these five gourds.
What are the similarities and differences between the two tunes you
Investigate the number of faces you can see when you arrange three cubes in different ways.
What is the smallest number of tiles needed to tile this patio? Can
you investigate patios of different sizes?
The red ring is inside the blue ring in this picture. Can you
rearrange the rings in different ways? Perhaps you can overlap them
or put one outside another?
Can you find out how the 6-triangle shape is transformed in these
tessellations? Will the tessellations go on for ever? Why or why
Investigate what happens when you add house numbers along a street
in different 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?
Compare the numbers of particular tiles in one or all of these
three designs, inspired by the floor tiles of a church in
An activity making various patterns with 2 x 1 rectangular tiles.
Can you create more models that follow these rules?
Can you continue this pattern of triangles and begin to predict how many sticks are used for each new "layer"?
Vincent and Tara are making triangles with the class construction set. They have a pile of strips of different lengths. How many different triangles can they make?