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
How many ways can you find of tiling the square patio, using square
tiles of different sizes?
Can you find ways of joining cubes together so that 28 faces are
Investigate all the different squares you can make on this 5 by 5
grid by making your starting side go from the bottom left hand
point. Can you find out the areas of all these squares?
A group of children are discussing the height of a tall tree. How would you go about finding out its height?
These pictures show squares split into halves. Can you find other ways?
What is the smallest number of tiles needed to tile this patio? Can
you investigate patios of different sizes?
Place the 16 different combinations of cup/saucer in this 4 by 4 arrangement so that no row or column contains more than one cup or saucer of the same colour.
Have a go at this 3D extension to the Pebbles problem.
This tricky challenge asks you to find ways of going across rectangles, going through exactly ten squares.
It starts quite simple but great opportunities for number discoveries and patterns!
An activity making various patterns with 2 x 1 rectangular tiles.
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 do these two triangles have in common? How are they related?
Use the interactivity to investigate what kinds of triangles can be
drawn on peg boards with different numbers of pegs.
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?
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?
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?
Arrange your fences to make the largest rectangular space you can. Try with four fences, then five, then six etc.
We went to the cinema and decided to buy some bags of popcorn so we
asked about the prices. Investigate how much popcorn each bag holds
so find out which we might have bought.
Cut differently-sized square corners from a square piece of paper
to make boxes without lids. Do they all have the same volume?
In this investigation, we look at Pascal's Triangle in a slightly different way - rotated and with the top line of ones taken off.
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?
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?
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?
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?
Sort the houses in my street into different groups. Can you do it in any other ways?
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?
Investigate the different ways you could split up these rooms so
that you have double the number.
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!
Is there a best way to stack cans? What do different supermarkets
do? How high can you safely stack the cans?
Polygonal numbers are those that are arranged in shapes as they enlarge. Explore the polygonal numbers drawn here.
This challenge extends the Plants investigation so now four or more children are involved.
Explore one of these five pictures.
How many models can you find which obey these rules?
Can you create more models that follow these rules?
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.
Why does the tower look a different size in each of these pictures?
Many natural systems appear to be in equilibrium until suddenly a critical point is reached, setting up a mudslide or an avalanche or an earthquake. In this project, students will use a simple. . . .
A challenging activity focusing on finding all possible ways of stacking rods.
In how many ways can you stack these rods, following the rules?
This problem is intended to get children to look really hard at something they will see many times in the next few months.
We think this 3x3 version of the game is often harder than the 5x5 version. Do you agree? If so, why do you think that might be?
Bernard Bagnall looks at what 'problem solving' might really mean
in the context of primary classrooms.
How many different ways can you find of fitting five hexagons
together? How will you know you have found all the ways?
How could you put eight beanbags in the hoops so that there are
four in the blue hoop, five in the red and six in the yellow? Can
you find all the ways of doing this?
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?