In this article for teachers, Bernard gives an example of taking an
initial activity and getting questions going that lead to other
This challenge involves eight three-cube models made from
interlocking cubes. Investigate different ways of putting the
models together then compare your constructions.
Bernard Bagnall looks at what 'problem solving' might really mean
in the context of primary classrooms.
Can you create more models that follow these rules?
How many models can you find which obey these rules?
We need to wrap up this cube-shaped present, remembering that we
can have no overlaps. What shapes can you find to use?
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?
Here is your chance to investigate the number 28 using shapes,
cubes ... in fact anything at all.
Bernard Bagnall describes how to get more out of some favourite
Suppose there is a train with 24 carriages which are going to be
put together to make up some new trains. Can you find all the ways
that this can be done?
A thoughtful shepherd used bales of straw to protect the area
around his lambs. Explore how you can arrange the bales.
Investigate the area of 'slices' cut off this cube of cheese. What
would happen if you had different-sized block of cheese to start
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?
How can you arrange the 5 cubes so that you need the smallest number of Brush Loads of paint to cover them? Try with other numbers of cubes as well.
Have a go at this 3D extension to the Pebbles problem.
This challenge is to design different step arrangements, which must
go along a distance of 6 on the steps and must end up at 6 high.
What happens to the area of a square if you double the length of
the sides? Try the same thing with rectangles, diamonds and other
shapes. How do the four smaller ones fit into the larger one?
Arrange your fences to make the largest rectangular space you can. Try with four fences, then five, then six etc.
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?
Investigate the number of faces you can see when you arrange three cubes in different ways.
This challenge asks you to investigate the total number of cards that would be sent if four children send one to all three others. How many would be sent if there were five children? Six?
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?
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?
Why does the tower look a different size in each of these pictures?
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?
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?
Investigate what happens when you add house numbers along a street
in different ways.
An activity making various patterns with 2 x 1 rectangular tiles.
This activity asks you to collect information about the birds you
see in the garden. Are there patterns in the data or do the birds
seem to visit randomly?
An investigation that gives you the opportunity to make and justify
I cut this square into two different shapes. What can you say about
the relationship between them?
48 is called an abundant number because it is less than the sum of
its factors (without itself). Can you find some more abundant
Explore ways of colouring this set of triangles. Can you make
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?
What is the largest cuboid you can wrap in an A3 sheet of paper?
Is there a best way to stack cans? What do different supermarkets
do? How high can you safely stack the cans?
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?
Can you find out how the 6-triangle shape is transformed in these
tessellations? Will the tessellations go on for ever? Why or why
Use the interactivity to investigate what kinds of triangles can be
drawn on peg boards with different numbers of pegs.
Can you continue this pattern of triangles and begin to predict how many sticks are used for each new "layer"?
Try continuing these patterns made from triangles. Can you create
your own repeating pattern?
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 is the smallest number of tiles needed to tile this patio? Can
you investigate patios of different sizes?
What do these two triangles have in common? How are they related?
Explore the different tunes you can make with these five gourds.
What are the similarities and differences between the two tunes you
This article for teachers suggests ideas for activities built around 10 and 2010.
A group of children are discussing the height of a tall tree. How would you go about finding out its height?
This problem is intended to get children to look really hard at something they will see many times in the next few months.
This challenging activity involves finding different ways to distribute fifteen items among four sets, when the sets must include three, four, five and six items.
This challenge extends the Plants investigation so now four or more children are involved.