Bernard Bagnall looks at what 'problem solving' might really mean in the context of primary classrooms.

Well now, what would happen if we lost all the nines in our number system? Have a go at writing the numbers out in this way and have a look at the multiplications table.

Arrange eight of the numbers between 1 and 9 in the Polo Square below so that each side adds to the same total.

EWWNP means Exploring Wild and Wonderful Number Patterns Created by Yourself! Investigate what happens if we create number patterns using some simple rules.

What happens when you add the digits of a number then multiply the result by 2 and you keep doing this? You could try for different numbers and different rules.

In this section from a calendar, put a square box around the 1st, 2nd, 8th and 9th. Add all the pairs of numbers. What do you notice about the answers?

Which times on a digital clock have a line of symmetry? Which look the same upside-down? You might like to try this investigation and find out!

Write the numbers up to 64 in an interesting way so that the shape they make at the end is interesting, different, more exciting ... than just a square.

In this investigation, you are challenged to make mobile phone numbers which are easy to remember. What happens if you make a sequence adding 2 each time?

This problem is based on the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Investigate the different numbers of people and rats there could have been if you know how many legs there are altogether!

Investigate what happens when you add house numbers along a street in different ways.

In this article for teachers, Bernard gives an example of taking an initial activity and getting questions going that lead to other explorations.

These caterpillars have 16 parts. What different shapes do they make if each part lies in the small squares of a 4 by 4 square?

48 is called an abundant number because it is less than the sum of its factors (without itself). Can you find some more abundant numbers?

How could you put eight beanbags in the hoops so that there are four in the blue hoop, five in the red and six in the yellow? Can you find all the ways of doing this?

In a Magic Square all the rows, columns and diagonals add to the 'Magic Constant'. How would you change the magic constant of this square?

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?

Complete these two jigsaws then put one on top of the other. What happens when you add the 'touching' numbers? What happens when you change the position of the jigsaws?

There are to be 6 homes built on a new development site. They could be semi-detached, detached or terraced houses. How many different combinations of these can you find?

Three children are going to buy some plants for their birthdays. They will plant them within circular paths. How could they do this?

This challenge asks you to investigate the total number of cards that would be sent if four children send one to all three others. How many would be sent if there were five children? Six?

Place this "worm" on the 100 square and find the total of the four squares it covers. Keeping its head in the same place, what other totals can you make?

Start with four numbers at the corners of a square and put the total of two corners in the middle of that side. Keep going... Can you estimate what the size of the last four numbers will be?

Can you design a new shape for the twenty-eight squares and arrange the numbers in a logical way? What patterns do you notice?

Investigate this balance which is marked in halves. If you had a weight on the left-hand 7, where could you hang two weights on the right to make it balance?

We can arrange dots in a similar way to the 5 on a dice and they usually sit quite well into a rectangular shape. How many altogether in this 3 by 5? What happens for other sizes?

Here is your chance to investigate the number 28 using shapes, cubes ... in fact anything at all.

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.

You cannot choose a selection of ice cream flavours that includes totally what someone has already chosen. Have a go and find all the different ways in which seven children can have ice cream.

In how many ways can you stack these rods, following the rules?

Bernard Bagnall describes how to get more out of some favourite NRICH investigations.

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?

If we had 16 light bars which digital numbers could we make? How will you know you've found them all?

How many different shaped boxes can you design for 36 sweets in one layer? Can you arrange the sweets so that no sweets of the same colour are next to each other in any direction?

Investigate the different ways you could split up these rooms so that you have double the number.

What is the smallest number of tiles needed to tile this patio? Can you investigate patios of different sizes?

Suppose we allow ourselves to use three numbers less than 10 and multiply them together. How many different products can you find? How do you know you've got them all?

Follow the directions for circling numbers in the matrix. Add all the circled numbers together. Note your answer. Try again with a different starting number. What do you notice?

I like to walk along the cracks of the paving stones, but not the outside edge of the path itself. How many different routes can you find for me to take?

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?

If you have three circular objects, you could arrange them so that they are separate, touching, overlapping or inside each other. Can you investigate all the different possibilities?

This challenge asks you to investigate the total number of cards that would be sent if four children send one to all three others. How many would be sent if there were five children? Six?

How many different sets of numbers with at least four members can you find in the numbers in this box?

When newspaper pages get separated at home we have to try to sort them out and get things in the correct order. How many ways can we arrange these pages so that the numbering may be different?

Why does the tower look a different size in each of these pictures?

Lolla bought a balloon at the circus. She gave the clown six coins to pay for it. What could Lolla have paid for the balloon?

When Charlie asked his grandmother how old she is, he didn't get a straightforward reply! Can you work out how old she is?

"Ip dip sky blue! Who's 'it'? It's you!" Where would you position yourself so that you are 'it' if there are two players? Three players ...?