This article for primary teachers suggests ways in which to help children become better at working systematically.
In this article, the NRICH team describe the process of selecting solutions for publication on the site.
This article for teachers suggests activities based on pegboards, from pattern generation to finding all possible triangles, for example.
How many models can you find which obey these rules?
Here are four cubes joined together. How many other arrangements of
four cubes can you find? Can you draw them on dotty paper?
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?
When intergalactic Wag Worms are born they look just like a cube.
Each year they grow another cube in any direction. Find all the
shapes that five-year-old Wag Worms can be.
Penta people, the Pentominoes, always build their houses from five
square rooms. I wonder how many different Penta homes you can
Imagine that the puzzle pieces of a jigsaw are roughly a
rectangular shape and all the same size. How many different puzzle
pieces could there be?
Start with three pairs of socks. Now mix them up so that no
mismatched pair is the same as another mismatched pair. Is there
more than one way to do it?
Take three differently coloured blocks - maybe red, yellow and blue. Make a tower using one of each colour. How many different towers can you make?
My coat has three buttons. How many ways can you find to do up all
Explore the different snakes that can be made using 5 cubes.
The Red Express Train usually has five red carriages. How many ways
can you find to add two blue carriages?
El Crico the cricket has to cross a square patio to get home. He
can jump the length of one tile, two tiles and three tiles. Can you
find a path that would get El Crico home in three jumps?
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.
Lorenzie was packing his bag for a school trip. He packed four
shirts and three pairs of pants. "I will be able to have a
different outfit each day", he said. How many days will Lorenzie be
Kate has eight multilink cubes. She has two red ones, two yellow, two green and two blue. She wants to fit them together to make a cube so that each colour shows on each face just once.
Arrange 9 red cubes, 9 blue cubes and 9 yellow cubes into a large 3 by 3 cube. No row or column of cubes must contain two cubes of the same colour.
A thoughtful shepherd used bales of straw to protect the area
around his lambs. Explore how you can arrange the bales.
The NRICH team are always looking for new ways to engage teachers
and pupils in problem solving. Here we explain the thinking behind
These two group activities use mathematical reasoning - one is
numerical, one geometric.
If you had 36 cubes, what different cuboids could you make?
My briefcase has a three-number combination lock, but I have
forgotten the combination. I remember that there's a 3, a 5 and an
8. How many possible combinations are there to try?
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.
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?
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?
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?
In this maze of hexagons, you start in the centre at 0. The next
hexagon must be a multiple of 2 and the next a multiple of 5. What
are the possible paths you could take?
Alice's mum needs to go to each child's house just once and then
back home again. How many different routes are there? Use the
information to find out how long each road is on the route she
Are all the possible combinations of two shapes included in this
set of 27 cards? How do you know?
Tim had nine cards each with a different number from 1 to 9 on it.
How could he have put them into three piles so that the total in
each pile was 15?
How many different triangles can you make on a circular pegboard that has nine pegs?
Is it possible to place 2 counters on the 3 by 3 grid so that there
is an even number of counters in every row and every column? How
about if you have 3 counters or 4 counters or....?
Here are some rods that are different colours. How could I make a dark green rod using yellow and white rods?
This practical challenge invites you to investigate the different
squares you can make on a square geoboard or pegboard.
Here you see the front and back views of a dodecahedron. Each
vertex has been numbered so that the numbers around each pentagonal
face add up to 65. Can you find all the missing numbers?
Katie had a pack of 20 cards numbered from 1 to 20. She arranged
the cards into 6 unequal piles where each pile added to the same
total. What was the total and how could this be done?
Can you put the numbers 1-5 in the V shape so that both 'arms' have the same total?
Can you work out how to balance this equaliser? You can put more
than one weight on a hook.
Place the numbers 1 to 6 in the circles so that each number is the
difference between the two numbers just below it.
There are 78 prisoners in a square cell block of twelve cells. The
clever prison warder arranged them so there were 25 along each wall
of the prison block. How did he do it?
Place the numbers 1 to 10 in the circles so that each number is the
difference between the two numbers just below it.
You have two egg timers. One takes 4 minutes exactly to empty and
the other takes 7 minutes. What times in whole minutes can you
measure and how?
An investigation that gives you the opportunity to make and justify
How many trains can you make which are the same length as Matt's, using rods that are identical?
Use the interactivity to help get a feel for this problem and to find out all the possible ways the balls could land.
Can you make a train the same length as Laura's but using three differently coloured rods? Is there only one way of doing it?
Can you find all the different ways of lining up these Cuisenaire
There were chews for 2p, mini eggs for 3p, Chocko bars for 5p and
lollypops for 7p in the sweet shop. What could each of the children
buy with their money?