You may also like

Doughnut Percents

A task involving the equivalence between fractions, percentages and decimals which depends on members of the group noticing the needs of others and responding.

Castles in the Middle

This task depends on groups working collaboratively, discussing and reasoning to agree a final product.

Guess the Dominoes

This task depends on learners sharing reasoning, listening to opinions, reflecting and pulling ideas together.

Arranging Counters

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Arranging Counters

This is one of a series of problems designed to develop learners' team working skills. Other tasks in the series can be found by going to this article.

What are you aiming to do?

For the task:

The team has to recreate an arrangement of counters that matches all the information on their cards, without showing each team member's information to anyone else.

As a team:

  • Allowing everyone to contribute
  • Listening
  • Asking questions and finding out what others think
  • Sharing knowledge and reasoning
  • Reflecting and making use of what has been said
  • Coming to a consensus

Getting started

You will be working in a team of four. Ensure that you have plenty of red, green, yellow and blue counters. You cannot use paper or pencil to help you because you need to listen to what others have to say.

Discuss how you will work together and share your ideas.

Put the pile of 12 cards face down in the centre of the table.

Tackling the problem

Each member of the team takes a card from the pile in turn (enough for three cards each).


  • Team members cannot show their cards to anyone else on the team.
  • A team member can describe what is on each of their cards.
  • Team members can ask questions to help them make sense of what is on their cards, or on someone else's cards.
  • The task is complete when everyone agrees that the arrangement they have made matches everything that is on their cards.
If you have an observer, they might find the following list of things to look for helpful and feed back to the team at the end of the task.
  • Check that no one reveals their card or writes anything down.
  • Identify points where team members share knowledge and reasoning and listen to each other.
  • Identify points where team members make decisions together.
  • Note whether all members of the team are involved.


Why do this problem?

This task encourages the development of team-working skills such as listening, asking questions, finding out what others think, reflecting and making sense of what has been said, and eventially coming to a consensus. If you wish to learn more about these skills and find other team-building tasks look at this article. In addition learners are expected to use precision in describing an arrangement of objects.

Possible approach

The task is based on a team of four plus an observer. Each team member will have three cards.

You will need a collection of red, green, yellow and blue counters or the equivalent.

Explain the rules before any equipment is handed out as it is important that teams do not look at each other's cards or make notes to help them remember what has been said. This emphasises the idea that everyone has a part to play and reduces the chance of one person taking over the problem and leaving others with nothing to do.

It is good to have an observer in this task but, if this is not possible, the observer checklist might make a good starting point for you to use for feedback.

The cards can be found here: wordpdf.

NOTE that the card with an array of white counters indicates the layout of the counters.

When teams have finished working on the task it is important to spend time asking them to discuss in groups, and then as a whole class, how well they worked as a team, what they have learned from the experience and what they would do differently next time. Your own observations, as well as those of observers, might inform the discussions.

Key questions

  • Has anyone got a card that they think has a useful piece of information to start with? Can you expain why this is a useful card?
  • Have you used all the information you have been given?
  • How well did you listen to others in your group?
  • How easy was it to share what you knew?

Possible extension

Learners may like to try one of the other 'All for one' tasks. Other team-building tasks can be found by going to this article.

Possible support

Here (wordpdf) is a set of cards with the top clearly marked so that the orientation is known.
Learners can reveal one (or more) of their cards at a time. Other team-building tasks can be found by going to this article.