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.
Charlie has made a Magic V. Can you use his example to make some more? And how about Magic Ls, Ns and Ws?
The NRICH team are always looking for new ways to engage teachers
and pupils in problem solving. Here we explain the thinking behind
A little bit of algebra explains this 'magic'. Ask a friend to pick 3 consecutive numbers and to tell you a multiple of 3. Then ask them to add the four numbers and multiply by 67, and to tell you. . . .
Pick a square within a multiplication square and add the numbers on
each diagonal. What do you notice?
You can work out the number someone else is thinking of as follows. Ask a friend to think of any natural number less than 100. Then ask them to tell you the remainders when this number is divided by. . . .
For this challenge, you'll need to play Got It! Can you explain the strategy for winning this game with any target?
Delight your friends with this cunning trick! Can you explain how
Can you explain how this card trick works?
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?
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.
The diagram shows a 5 by 5 geoboard with 25 pins set out in a square array. Squares are made by stretching rubber bands round specific pins. What is the total number of squares that can be made on a. . . .
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. . . .
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. . . .
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 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.
Try entering different sets of numbers in the number pyramids. How does the total at the top change?
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.
How many ways can you find to do up all four buttons on my coat? How about if I had five buttons? Six ...?
Imagine we have four bags containing a large number of 1s, 4s, 7s and 10s. What numbers can we make?
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.
Polygonal numbers are those that are arranged in shapes as they enlarge. Explore the polygonal numbers drawn here.
In how many different ways can you break up a stick of 7 interlocking cubes? Now try with a stick of 8 cubes and a stick of 6 cubes.
It starts quite simple but great opportunities for number discoveries and patterns!
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?
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?
This challenge asks you to imagine a snake coiling on itself.
Triangle numbers can be represented by a triangular array of squares. What do you notice about the sum of identical triangle numbers?
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.
Square numbers can be represented as the sum of consecutive odd
numbers. What is the sum of 1 + 3 + ..... + 149 + 151 + 153?
What are the areas of these triangles? What do you notice? Can you generalise to other "families" of triangles?
Can you tangle yourself up and reach any fraction?
Use the animation to help you work out how many lines are needed to draw mystic roses of different sizes.
Can you see how to build a harmonic triangle? Can you work out the next two rows?
Here are two kinds of spirals for you to explore. What do you notice?
Here are some arrangements of circles. How many circles would I need to make the next size up for each? Can you create your own arrangement and investigate the number of circles it needs?
This challenge, written for the Young Mathematicians' Award, invites you to explore 'centred squares'.
The Egyptians expressed all fractions as the sum of different unit
fractions. Here is a chance to explore how they could have written
Imagine you have a large supply of 3kg and 8kg weights. How many of each weight would you need for the average (mean) of the weights to be 6kg? What other averages could you have?
What size square corners should be cut from a square piece of paper to make a box with the largest possible volume?
Can all unit fractions be written as the sum of two unit fractions?
Only one side of a two-slice toaster is working. What is the
quickest way to toast both sides of three slices of bread?
How many centimetres of rope will I need to make another mat just
like the one I have here?
Do you notice anything about the solutions when you add and/or
subtract consecutive negative numbers?
A package contains a set of resources designed to develop
pupils’ mathematical thinking. This package places a
particular emphasis on “generalising” and is designed
to meet the. . . .
Investigate the sum of the numbers on the top and bottom faces of a line of three dice. What do you notice?
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?
Can you find the values at the vertices when you know the values on
It would be nice to have a strategy for disentangling any tangled
What would you get if you continued this sequence of fraction sums?
1/2 + 2/1 =
2/3 + 3/2 =
3/4 + 4/3 =