In this article, the NRICH team describe the process of selecting solutions for publication on the site.
This article for primary teachers suggests ways in which to help children become better at working systematically.
This article for teachers suggests activities based on pegboards, from pattern generation to finding all possible triangles, for example.
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?
Explore the different snakes that can be made using 5 cubes.
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
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?
The Red Express Train usually has five red carriages. How many ways
can you find to add two blue carriages?
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?
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?
Using all ten cards from 0 to 9, rearrange them to make five prime
numbers. Can you find any other ways of doing it?
How could you arrange at least two dice in a stack so that the total of the visible spots is 18?
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?
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.
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?
My coat has three buttons. How many ways can you find to do up all
Ten cards are put into five envelopes so that there are two cards in each envelope. The sum of the numbers inside it is written on each envelope. What numbers could be inside the envelopes?
Using the cards 2, 4, 6, 8, +, - and =, what number statements can
When you throw two regular, six-faced dice you have more chance of getting one particular result than any other. What result would that be? Why is this?
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?
If you put three beads onto a tens/ones abacus you could make the
numbers 3, 30, 12 or 21. What numbers can be made with six beads?
Here are four cubes joined together. How many other arrangements of
four cubes can you find? Can you draw them on dotty paper?
Choose four different digits from 1-9 and put one in each box so that the resulting four two-digit numbers add to a total of 100.
Roll two red dice and a green dice. Add the two numbers on the red dice and take away the number on the green. What are all the different possibilities that could come up?
Can you use the information to find out which cards I have used?
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.
This multiplication uses each of the digits 0 - 9 once and once only. Using the information given, can you replace the stars in the calculation with figures?
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?
This dice train has been made using specific rules. How many different trains can you make?
How many models can you find which obey these rules?
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.
If you had 36 cubes, what different cuboids could you make?
If you had any number of ordinary dice, what are the possible ways
of making their totals 6? What would the product of the dice be
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?
Can you put the numbers 1-5 in the V shape so that both 'arms' have the same total?
A thoughtful shepherd used bales of straw to protect the area
around his lambs. Explore how you can arrange the bales.
Penta people, the Pentominoes, always build their houses from five
square rooms. I wonder how many different Penta homes you can
The NRICH team are always looking for new ways to engage teachers
and pupils in problem solving. Here we explain the thinking behind
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.
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.
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?
These two group activities use mathematical reasoning - one is
numerical, one geometric.
Find all the numbers that can be made by adding the dots on two dice.
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?
A package contains a set of resources designed to develop
students’ mathematical thinking. This package places a
particular emphasis on “being systematic” and is
designed to meet. . . .
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?
How many different triangles can you make on a circular pegboard that has nine pegs?
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
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?
An investigation that gives you the opportunity to make and justify