Bernard Bagnall looks at what 'problem solving' might really mean
in the context of primary classrooms.
If I use 12 green tiles to represent my lawn, how many different
ways could I arrange them? How many border tiles would I need each
In this investigation we are going to count the number of 1s, 2s, 3s etc in numbers. Can you predict what will happen?
Bernard Bagnall describes how to get more out of some favourite
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?
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?
Explore ways of colouring this set of triangles. Can you make
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 these hexagons drawn from different sized equilateral
How many tiles do we need to tile these patios?
Investigate the numbers that come up on a die as you roll it in the
direction of north, south, east and west, without going over the
path it's already made.
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?
This problem is intended to get children to look really hard at something they will see many times in the next few months.
Why does the tower look a different size in each of these pictures?
Here is your chance to investigate the number 28 using shapes,
cubes ... in fact anything at all.
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 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?
Investigate and explain the patterns that you see from recording
just the units digits of numbers in the times tables.
Can you make these equilateral triangles fit together to cover the
paper without any gaps between them? Can you tessellate isosceles
Investigate the area of 'slices' cut off this cube of cheese. What
would happen if you had different-sized block of cheese to start
Here are many ideas for you to investigate - all linked with the
Investigate the different ways these aliens count in this
challenge. You could start by thinking about how each of them would
write our number 7.
How many different sets of numbers with at least four members can
you find in the numbers in this box?
Can you continue this pattern of triangles and begin to predict how many sticks are used for each new "layer"?
If we had 16 light bars which digital numbers could we make? How
will you know you've found them all?
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?
In this section from a calendar, put a square box around the 1st,
2nd, 8th and 9th. Add all the pairs of numbers. What do you notice
about the answers?
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?
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.
When Charlie asked his grandmother how old she is, he didn't get a
straightforward reply! Can you work out how old she is?
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
"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 ...?
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?
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
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?
Polygonal numbers are those that are arranged in shapes as they enlarge. Explore the polygonal numbers drawn here.
While we were sorting some papers we found 3 strange sheets which
seemed to come from small books but there were page numbers at the
foot of each page. Did the pages come from the same book?
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?
In how many ways can you stack these rods, following the rules?
Investigate the different ways you could split up these rooms so
that you have double the number.
These pictures were made by starting with a square, finding the half-way point on each side and joining those points up. You could investigate your own starting shape.
Cut differently-sized square corners from a square piece of paper
to make boxes without lids. Do they all have the same volume?
How many models can you find which obey these rules?
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?
Investigate what happens when you add house numbers along a street
in different ways.
What is the smallest number of tiles needed to tile this patio? Can
you investigate patios of different sizes?
If the answer's 2010, what could the question be?
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?
An investigation that gives you the opportunity to make and justify