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?
Take a rectangle of paper and fold it in half, and half again, to
make four smaller rectangles. How many different ways can you fold
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
The Red Express Train usually has five red carriages. How many ways
can you find to add two blue carriages?
Explore the different snakes that can be made using 5 cubes.
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.
My coat has three buttons. How many ways can you find to do up all
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
Can you shunt the trucks so that the Cattle truck and the Sheep
truck change places and the Engine is back on the main line?
What is the best way to shunt these carriages so that each train
can continue its journey?
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?
10 space travellers are waiting to board their spaceships. There
are two rows of seats in the waiting room. Using the rules, where
are they all sitting? Can you find all the possible ways?
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.
Design an arrangement of display boards in the school hall which fits the requirements of different people.
Investigate the different ways you could split up these rooms so
that you have double the number.
These are the faces of Will, Lil, Bill, Phil and Jill. Use the clues to work out which name goes with each face.
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.
This problem focuses on Dienes' Logiblocs. What is the same and
what is different about these pairs of shapes? Can you describe the
shapes in the picture?
In how many ways could Mrs Beeswax put ten coins into her three
puddings so that each pudding ended up with at least two coins?
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?
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?
What is the greatest number of counters you can place on the grid below without four of them lying at the corners of a square?
Swap the stars with the moons, using only knights' moves (as on a
chess board). What is the smallest number of moves possible?
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.
Place eight dots on this diagram, so that there are only two dots
on each straight line and only two dots on each circle.
Seven friends went to a fun fair with lots of scary rides. They
decided to pair up for rides until each friend had ridden once with
each of the others. What was the total number rides?
Put 10 counters in a row. Find a way to arrange the counters into
five pairs, evenly spaced in a row, in just 5 moves, using the
Can you rearrange the biscuits on the plates so that the three
biscuits on each plate are all different and there is no plate with
two biscuits the same as two biscuits on another plate?
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.
How many DIFFERENT quadrilaterals can be made by joining the dots
on the 8-point circle?
Place eight queens on an chessboard (an 8 by 8 grid) so that none
can capture any of the others.
In the planet system of Octa the planets are arranged in the shape
of an octahedron. How many different routes could be taken to get
from Planet A to Planet Zargon?
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.
If we had 16 light bars which digital numbers could we make? How
will you know you've found them all?
Place the numbers 1 to 8 in the circles so that no consecutive
numbers are joined by a line.
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?
Moira is late for school. What is the shortest route she can take from the school gates to the entrance?
In this problem it is not the squares that jump, you do the jumping! The idea is to go round the track in as few jumps as possible.
Building up a simple Celtic knot. Try the interactivity or download
the cards or have a go on squared paper.
In this challenge, buckets come in five different sizes. If you choose some buckets, can you investigate the different ways in which they can be filled?
In a bowl there are 4 Chocolates, 3 Jellies and 5 Mints. Find a way
to share the sweets between the three children so they each get the
kind they like. Is there more than one way to do it?
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?
How many models can you find which obey these rules?
These activities lend themselves to systematic working in the sense that it helps to have an ordered approach.
These activities focus on finding all possible solutions so if you work in a systematic way, you won't leave any out.
These practical challenges are all about making a 'tray' and covering it with paper.