This article suggests some ways of making sense of calculations involving positive and negative numbers.
Find the numbers in this sum
A combination mechanism for a safe comprises thirty-two tumblers
numbered from one to thirty-two in such a way that the numbers in
each wheel total 132... Could you open the safe?
If you wrote all the possible four digit numbers made by using each
of the digits 2, 4, 5, 7 once, what would they add up to?
What is the largest number you can make using the three digits 2, 3
and 4 in any way you like, using any operations you like? You can
only use each digit once.
The sum of the first 'n' natural numbers is a 3 digit number in which all the digits are the same. How many numbers have been summed?
You have four jugs of 9, 7, 4 and 2 litres capacity. The 9 litre
jug is full of wine, the others are empty. Can you divide the wine
into three equal quantities?
Can you arrange the digits 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 into three 3-digit
numbers such that their total is close to 1500?
Find the values of the nine letters in the sum: FOOT + BALL = GAME
How can we help students make sense of addition and subtraction of negative numbers?
Different combinations of the weights available allow you to make different totals. Which totals can you make?
What is the sum of all the digits in all the integers from one to
The picture shows a lighthouse and many underwater creatures. If
you know the markings on the lighthouse are 1m apart, can you work
out the distances between some of the different creatures?
Whenever two chameleons of different colours meet they change
colour to the third colour. Describe the shortest sequence of
meetings in which all the chameleons change to green if you start
with 12. . . .
Find the sum of all three-digit numbers each of whose digits is
How many solutions can you find to this sum? Each of the different letters stands for a different number.
Do you notice anything about the solutions when you add and/or
subtract consecutive negative numbers?
In this game the winner is the first to complete a row of three. Are some squares easier to land on than others?
Use your logical reasoning to work out how many cows and how many
sheep there are in each field.
Investigate $1^n + 19^n + 20^n + 51^n + 57^n + 80^n + 82^n $ and $2^n + 12^n + 31^n + 40^n + 69^n + 71^n + 85^n$ for different values of n.
When I type a sequence of letters my calculator gives the product
of all the numbers in the corresponding memories. What numbers
should I store so that when I type 'ONE' it returns 1, and when I
type. . . .
This challenge is to make up YOUR OWN alphanumeric. Each letter
represents a digit and where the same letter appears more than once
it must represent the same digit each time.
There are exactly 3 ways to add 4 odd numbers to get 10. Find all
the ways of adding 8 odd numbers to get 20. To be sure of getting
all the solutions you will need to be systematic. What about. . . .
Crosses can be drawn on number grids of various sizes. What do you notice when you add opposite ends?
There are nasty versions of this dice game but we'll start with the nice ones...
Number problems at primary level to work on with others.
If each of these three shapes has a value, can you find the totals
of the combinations? Perhaps you can use the shapes to make the
Find a great variety of ways of asking questions which make 8.
Who said that adding couldn't be fun?
Cassandra, David and Lachlan are brothers and sisters. They range
in age between 1 year and 14 years. Can you figure out their exact
ages from the clues?
Place the digits 1 to 9 into the circles so that each side of the
triangle adds to the same total.
Can you substitute numbers for the letters in these sums?
Tell your friends that you have a strange calculator that turns
numbers backwards. What secret number do you have to enter to make
141 414 turn around?
Investigate the different distances of these car journeys and find out how long they take.
Using 3 rods of integer lengths, none longer than 10 units and not
using any rod more than once, you can measure all the lengths in
whole units from 1 to 10 units. How many ways can you do this?
The value of the circle changes in each of the following problems. Can you discover its value in each problem?
First Connect Three game for an adult and child. Use the dice numbers and either addition or subtraction to get three numbers in a straight line.
Find at least one way to put in some operation signs (+ - x ÷)
to make these digits come to 100.
Vera is shopping at a market with these coins in her purse. Which
things could she give exactly the right amount for?
Can you score 100 by throwing rings on this board? Is there more
than way to do it?
This task combines spatial awareness with addition and multiplication.
Use 4 four times with simple operations so that you get the answer 12. Can you make 15, 16 and 17 too?
Find out what a Deca Tree is and then work out how many leaves
there will be after the woodcutter has cut off a trunk, a branch, a
twig and a leaf.
On the table there is a pile of oranges and lemons that weighs
exactly one kilogram. Using the information, can you work out how
many lemons there are?
Rocco ran in a 200 m race for his class. Use the information to
find out how many runners there were in the race and what Rocco's
finishing position was.
In this game, you can add, subtract, multiply or divide the numbers
on the dice. Which will you do so that you get to the end of the
number line first?
Amy has a box containing domino pieces but she does not think it is a complete set. She has 24 dominoes in her box and there are 125 spots on them altogether. Which of her domino pieces are missing?
Annie cut this numbered cake into 3 pieces with 3 cuts so that the
numbers on each piece added to the same total. Where were the cuts
and what fraction of the whole cake was each piece?
Arrange three 1s, three 2s and three 3s in this square so that
every row, column and diagonal adds to the same total.
What happens when you add three numbers together? Will your answer be odd or even? How do you know?