This article is based on some of the ideas that emerged during the production of a book which takes visualising as its focus. We began to identify problems which helped us to take a structured view. . . .
This is the first article in a series which aim to provide some insight into the way spatial thinking develops in children, and draw on a range of reported research. The focus of this article is the. . . .
What happens when you try and fit the triomino pieces into these
Can you see why 2 by 2 could be 5? Can you predict what 2 by 10
How many different triangles can you make on a circular pegboard that has nine pegs?
Take it in turns to place a domino on the grid. One to be placed horizontally and the other vertically. Can you make it impossible for your opponent to play?
A game for two players on a large squared space.
In a square in which the houses are evenly spaced, numbers 3 and 10
are opposite each other. What is the smallest and what is the
largest possible number of houses in the square?
Move just three of the circles so that the triangle faces in the
A tetromino is made up of four squares joined edge to edge. Can
this tetromino, together with 15 copies of itself, be used to cover
an eight by eight chessboard?
Investigate how the four L-shapes fit together to make an enlarged
L-shape. You could explore this idea with other shapes too.
Make one big triangle so the numbers that touch on the small triangles add to 10. You could use the interactivity to help you.
Can you cover the camel with these pieces?
You have 4 red and 5 blue counters. How many ways can they be
placed on a 3 by 3 grid so that all the rows columns and diagonals
have an even number of red counters?
A game for two players. You'll need some counters.
Hover your mouse over the counters to see which ones will be
removed. Click to remover them. The winner is the last one to
remove a counter. How you can make sure you win?
Exchange the positions of the two sets of counters in the least possible number of moves
Imagine a pyramid which is built in square layers of small cubes. If we number the cubes from the top, starting with 1, can you picture which cubes are directly below this first cube?
If you can post the triangle with either the blue or yellow colour face up, how many ways can it be posted altogether?
Cut four triangles from a square as shown in the picture. How many
different shapes can you make by fitting the four triangles back
What does the overlap of these two shapes look like? Try picturing
it in your head and then use the interactivity to test your
A game for 2 players. Given a board of dots in a grid pattern, players take turns drawing a line by connecting 2 adjacent dots. Your goal is to complete more squares than your opponent.
A magician took a suit of thirteen cards and held them in his hand
face down. Every card he revealed had the same value as the one he
had just finished spelling. How did this work?
How can the same pieces of the tangram make this bowl before and after it was chipped? Use the interactivity to try and work out what is going on!
An extension of noughts and crosses in which the grid is enlarged
and the length of the winning line can to altered to 3, 4 or 5.
This 100 square jigsaw is written in code. It starts with 1 and ends with 100. Can you build it up?
An activity centred around observations of dots and how we visualise number arrangement patterns.
Here are shadows of some 3D shapes. What shapes could have made
This article for teachers discusses examples of problems in which
there is no obvious method but in which children can be encouraged
to think deeply about the context and extend their ability to. . . .
If you split the square into these two pieces, it is possible to fit the pieces together again to make a new shape. How many new shapes can you make?
Which of these dice are right-handed and which are left-handed?
Can you fit the tangram pieces into the outlines of Mai Ling and Chi Wing?
Can you fit the tangram pieces into the outlines of the candle and sundial?
Can you fit the tangram pieces into the outlines of the watering can and man in a boat?
Use the three triangles to fill these outline shapes. Perhaps you can create some of your own shapes for a friend to fill?
Can you fit the tangram pieces into the outline of this shape. How would you describe it?
Mathematics is the study of patterns. Studying pattern is an
opportunity to observe, hypothesise, experiment, discover and
Can you fit the tangram pieces into the outlines of the chairs?
Can you fit the tangram pieces into the outlines of the lobster, yacht and cyclist?
Can you fit the tangram pieces into the outline of the child walking home from school?
A dog is looking for a good place to bury his bone. Can you work
out where he started and ended in each case? What possible routes
could he have taken?
Investigate the number of paths you can take from one vertex to
another in these 3D shapes. Is it possible to take an odd number
and an even number of paths to the same vertex?
A shape and space game for 2,3 or 4 players. Be the last person to be able to place a pentomino piece on the playing board. Play with card, or on the computer.
A game for 2 players. Can be played online. One player has 1 red
counter, the other has 4 blue. The red counter needs to reach the
other side, and the blue needs to trap the red.
Can you fit the tangram pieces into the outlines of the workmen?
What can you see? What do you notice? What questions can you ask?
How many different ways can you find of fitting five hexagons
together? How will you know you have found all the ways?
Find your way through the grid starting at 2 and following these
operations. What number do you end on?
What happens when you turn these cogs? Investigate the differences
between turning two cogs of different sizes and two cogs which are
In how many ways can you fit two of these yellow triangles
together? Can you predict the number of ways two blue triangles can
be fitted together?