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.
Why does the tower look a different size in each of these pictures?
Explore one of these five pictures.
Numbers arranged in a square but some exceptional spatial awareness probably needed.
This tricky challenge asks you to find ways of going across rectangles, going through exactly ten squares.
A follow-up activity to Tiles in the Garden.
In this challenge, you will work in a group to investigate circular
fences enclosing trees that are planted in square or triangular
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.
There are three tables in a room with blocks of chocolate on each. Where would be the best place for each child in the class to sit if they came in one at a time?
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?
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
What is the smallest number of tiles needed to tile this patio? Can
you investigate patios of different sizes?
I cut this square into two different shapes. What can you say about
the relationship between them?
How many different ways can you find of fitting five hexagons
together? How will you know you have found all the ways?
Here is your chance to investigate the number 28 using shapes,
cubes ... in fact anything at all.
Can you find ways of joining cubes together so that 28 faces are
Is there a best way to stack cans? What do different supermarkets
do? How high can you safely stack the cans?
48 is called an abundant number because it is less than the sum of
its factors (without itself). Can you find some more abundant
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?
All types of mathematical problems serve a useful purpose in
mathematics teaching, but different types of problem will achieve
different learning objectives. In generalmore open-ended problems
have. . . .
An investigation that gives you the opportunity to make and justify
What is the largest cuboid you can wrap in an A3 sheet of paper?
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.
Explore ways of colouring this set of triangles. Can you make
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?
Sort the houses in my street into different groups. Can you do it in any other ways?
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!
Try continuing these patterns made from triangles. Can you create
your own repeating pattern?
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?
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?
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?
Use the interactivity to investigate what kinds of triangles can be
drawn on peg boards with different numbers of pegs.
What is the smallest cuboid that you can put in this box so that
you cannot fit another that's the same into it?
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 continue this pattern of triangles and begin to predict how many sticks are used for each new "layer"?
Can you find out how the 6-triangle shape is transformed in these
tessellations? Will the tessellations go on for ever? Why or why
What do these two triangles have in common? How are they related?
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?
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.
How many tiles do we need to tile these patios?
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?
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.
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.