The NRICH team are always looking for new ways to engage teachers
and pupils in problem solving. Here we explain the thinking behind
Try entering different sets of numbers in the number pyramids. How does the total at the top change?
Delight your friends with this cunning trick! Can you explain how
How could Penny, Tom and Matthew work out how many chocolates there
are in different sized boxes?
The number of plants in Mr McGregor's magic potting shed increases
overnight. He'd like to put the same number of plants in each of
his gardens, planting one garden each day. How can he do it?
Can you explain the strategy for winning this game with any target?
Can you work out how to win this game of Nim? Does it matter if you go first or second?
Can you explain how this card trick works?
Four bags contain a large number of 1s, 3s, 5s and 7s. Pick any ten numbers from the bags above so that their total is 37.
Do you notice anything about the solutions when you add and/or
subtract consecutive negative numbers?
Triangle numbers can be represented by a triangular array of squares. What do you notice about the sum of identical triangle numbers?
Nim-7 game for an adult and child. Who will be the one to take the last counter?
Watch this video to see how to roll the dice. Now it's your turn! What do you notice about the dice numbers you have recorded?
If you can copy a network without lifting your pen off the paper and without drawing any line twice, then it is traversable.
Decide which of these diagrams are traversable.
This challenge asks you to imagine a snake coiling on itself.
We can show that (x + 1)² = x² + 2x + 1 by considering
the area of an (x + 1) by (x + 1) square. Show in a similar way
that (x + 2)² = x² + 4x + 4
Here are two kinds of spirals for you to explore. What do you notice?
Many numbers can be expressed as the sum of two or more consecutive integers. For example, 15=7+8 and 10=1+2+3+4. Can you say which numbers can be expressed in this way?
One block is needed to make an up-and-down staircase, with one step up and one step down. How many blocks would be needed to build an up-and-down staircase with 5 steps up and 5 steps down?
What are the areas of these triangles? What do you notice? Can you generalise to other "families" of triangles?
What would be the smallest number of moves needed to move a Knight
from a chess set from one corner to the opposite corner of a 99 by
99 square board?
Imagine starting with one yellow cube and covering it all over with
a single layer of red cubes, and then covering that cube with a
layer of blue cubes. How many red and blue cubes would you need?
Can you dissect an equilateral triangle into 6 smaller ones? What
number of smaller equilateral triangles is it NOT possible to
dissect a larger equilateral triangle into?
Are these statements relating to odd and even numbers always true, sometimes true or never true?
When number pyramids have a sequence on the bottom layer, some interesting patterns emerge...
Euler discussed whether or not it was possible to stroll around Koenigsberg crossing each of its seven bridges exactly once. Experiment with different numbers of islands and bridges.
Find a route from the outside to the inside of this square, stepping on as many tiles as possible.
Can you see why 2 by 2 could be 5? Can you predict what 2 by 10
In this problem we are looking at sets of parallel sticks that
cross each other. What is the least number of crossings you can
make? And the greatest?
Square numbers can be represented as the sum of consecutive odd
numbers. What is the sum of 1 + 3 + ..... + 149 + 151 + 153?
This article for teachers describes several games, found on the
site, all of which have a related structure that can be used to
develop the skills of strategic planning.
The sum of the numbers 4 and 1 [1/3] is the same as the product of 4 and 1 [1/3]; that is to say 4 + 1 [1/3] = 4 × 1 [1/3]. What other numbers have the sum equal to the product and can this be so for. . . .
Can you find sets of sloping lines that enclose a square?
List any 3 numbers. It is always possible to find a subset of
adjacent numbers that add up to a multiple of 3. Can you explain
why and prove it?
Take any two positive numbers. Calculate the arithmetic and geometric means. Repeat the calculations to generate a sequence of arithmetic means and geometric means. Make a note of what happens to the. . . .
What would you get if you continued this sequence of fraction sums?
1/2 + 2/1 =
2/3 + 3/2 =
3/4 + 4/3 =
Consider all two digit numbers (10, 11, . . . ,99). In writing down
all these numbers, which digits occur least often, and which occur
most often ? What about three digit numbers, four digit numbers. . . .
Find some examples of pairs of numbers such that their sum is a
factor of their product. eg. 4 + 12 = 16 and 4 × 12 = 48 and
16 is a factor of 48.
It would be nice to have a strategy for disentangling any tangled
Imagine we have four bags containing numbers from a sequence. What numbers can we make now?
Imagine we have four bags containing a large number of 1s, 4s, 7s and 10s. What numbers can we make?
Imagine a large cube made from small red cubes being dropped into a pot of yellow paint. How many of the small cubes will have yellow paint on their faces?
Charlie has made a Magic V. Can you use his example to make some more? And how about Magic Ls, Ns and Ws?
A game for two people, or play online. Given a target number, say 23, and a range of numbers to choose from, say 1-4, players take it in turns to add to the running total to hit their target.
Spotting patterns can be an important first step - explaining why it is appropriate to generalise is the next step, and often the most interesting and important.
How many ways can you find to do up all four buttons on my coat? How about if I had five buttons? Six ...?
Charlie has moved between countries and the average income of both
has increased. How can this be so?
Can you tangle yourself up and reach any fraction?
Can you describe this route to infinity? Where will the arrows take you next?
It's easy to work out the areas of most squares that we meet, but
what if they were tilted?