Bernard Bagnall looks at what 'problem solving' might really mean in the context of primary classrooms.
In this article for teachers, Bernard gives an example of taking an initial activity and getting questions going that lead to other explorations.
Let's suppose that you are going to have a magazine which has 16 pages of A5 size. Can you find some different ways to make these pages? Investigate the pattern for each if you number the pages.
EWWNP means Exploring Wild and Wonderful Number Patterns Created by Yourself! Investigate what happens if we create number patterns using some simple rules.
Investigate the numbers that come up on a die as you roll it in the direction of north, south, east and west, without going over the path it's already made.
Investigate and explain the patterns that you see from recording just the units digits of numbers in the times tables.
Can you design a new shape for the twenty-eight squares and arrange the numbers in a logical way? What patterns do you notice?
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.
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?
This activity asks you to collect information about the birds you see in the garden. Are there patterns in the data or do the birds seem to visit randomly?
There are ten children in Becky's group. Can you find a set of numbers for each of them? Are there any other sets?
Investigate the different shaped bracelets you could make from 18 different spherical beads. How do they compare if you use 24 beads?
What happens if you join every second point on this circle? How about every third point? Try with different steps and see if you can predict what will happen.
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?
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?
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?
Investigate the area of 'slices' cut off this cube of cheese. What would happen if you had different-sized block of cheese to start with?
Explore Alex's number plumber. What questions would you like to ask? Don't forget to keep visiting NRICH projects site for the latest developments and questions.
Investigate the different ways these aliens count in this challenge. You could start by thinking about how each of them would write our number 7.
Make new patterns from simple turning instructions. You can have a go using pencil and paper or with a floor robot.
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?
If the answer's 2010, what could the question be?
If we had 16 light bars which digital numbers could we make? How will you know you've found them all?
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.
Here are many ideas for you to investigate - all linked with the number 2000.
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?
An investigation that gives you the opportunity to make and justify predictions.
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?
Explore ways of colouring this set of triangles. Can you make symmetrical patterns?
Investigate what happens when you add house numbers along a street in different ways.
Can you continue this pattern of triangles and begin to predict how many sticks are used for each new "layer"?
Can you find out how the 6-triangle shape is transformed in these tessellations? Will the tessellations go on for ever? Why or why not?
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?
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?
The red ring is inside the blue ring in this picture. Can you rearrange the rings in different ways? Perhaps you can overlap them or put one outside another?
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?
In my local town there are three supermarkets which each has a special deal on some products. If you bought all your shopping in one shop, where would be the cheapest?
Place four pebbles on the sand in the form of a square. Keep adding as few pebbles as necessary to double the area. How many extra pebbles are added each time?
Investigate all the different squares you can make on this 5 by 5 grid by making your starting side go from the bottom left hand point. Can you find out the areas of all these squares?
Can you make these equilateral triangles fit together to cover the paper without any gaps between them? Can you tessellate isosceles triangles?
Investigate the different ways you could split up these rooms so that you have double the number.
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?
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!
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 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?
Here is your chance to investigate the number 28 using shapes, cubes ... in fact anything at all.
Arrange eight of the numbers between 1 and 9 in the Polo Square below so that each side adds to the same total.
In how many ways can you stack these rods, following the rules?
If I use 12 green tiles to represent my lawn, how many different ways could I arrange them? How many border tiles would I need each time?