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Broad Topics > Decision Mathematics and Combinatorics > Combinations

The Secret World of Codes and Code Breaking

Age 7 to 16

When you think of spies and secret agents, you probably wouldn’t think of mathematics. Some of the most famous code breakers in history have been mathematicians.

Add 3 Dice

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Three dice are placed in a row. Find a way to turn each one so that the three numbers on top of the dice total the same as the three numbers on the front of the dice. Can you find all the ways to do. . . .

Last Biscuit

Age 11 to 16 Challenge Level:

A game that demands a logical approach using systematic working to deduce a winning strategy

Cross-country Race

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

Eight children enter the autumn cross-country race at school. How many possible ways could they come in at first, second and third places?

Dicing with Numbers

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

In how many ways can you arrange three dice side by side on a surface so that the sum of the numbers on each of the four faces (top, bottom, front and back) is equal?

Sam Again

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

Here is a collection of puzzles about Sam's shop sent in by club members. Perhaps you can make up more puzzles, find formulas or find general methods.

Domino Tetrads

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

Is it possible to use all 28 dominoes arranging them in squares of four? What patterns can you see in the solution(s)?

Semaphore Signals

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Semaphore is a way to signal the alphabet using two flags. You might want to send a message that contains more than just letters. How many other symbols could you send using this code?

Clocked

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

Is it possible to rearrange the numbers 1,2......12 around a clock face in such a way that every two numbers in adjacent positions differ by any of 3, 4 or 5 hours?

Small Change

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

In how many ways can a pound (value 100 pence) be changed into some combination of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 pence coins?

Football Crazy Hockey Mad

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

In a league of 5 football teams which play in a round robin tournament show that it is possible for all five teams to be league leaders.

Painting Cubes

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

Imagine you have six different colours of paint. You paint a cube using a different colour for each of the six faces. How many different cubes can be painted using the same set of six colours?

Hamilton's Puzzle

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

I start my journey in Rio de Janeiro and visit all the cities as Hamilton described, passing through Canberra before Madrid, and then returning to Rio. What route could I have taken?

1 Step 2 Step

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

Liam's house has a staircase with 12 steps. He can go down the steps one at a time or two at time. In how many different ways can Liam go down the 12 steps?

Even Up

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

Consider all of the five digit numbers which we can form using only the digits 2, 4, 6 and 8. If these numbers are arranged in ascending order, what is the 512th number?

Pattern of Islands

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

In how many distinct ways can six islands be joined by bridges so that each island can be reached from every other island...

Flagging

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

How many tricolour flags are possible with 5 available colours such that two adjacent stripes must NOT be the same colour. What about 256 colours?

Flight of the Flibbins

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

Blue Flibbins are so jealous of their red partners that they will not leave them on their own with any other bue Flibbin. What is the quickest way of getting the five pairs of Flibbins safely to. . . .

Six Times Five

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

How many six digit numbers are there which DO NOT contain a 5?

Man Food

Age 7 to 14 Challenge Level:

Sam displays cans in 3 triangular stacks. With the same number he could make one large triangular stack or stack them all in a square based pyramid. How many cans are there how were they arranged?

Elevenses

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

How many pairs of numbers can you find that add up to a multiple of 11? Do you notice anything interesting about your results?

Trominoes

Age 11 to 16 Challenge Level:

Can all but one square of an 8 by 8 Chessboard be covered by Trominoes?

Colour Building

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

Using only the red and white rods, how many different ways are there to make up the other colours of rod?

Butterfly Cards

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Four children were sharing a set of twenty-four butterfly cards. Are there any cards they all want? Are there any that none of them want?

Brailler

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

The machine I use to produce Braille messages is faulty and one of the pins that makes a raised dot is not working. I typed a short message in Braille. Can you work out what it really says?

Lesser Digits

Age 11 to 14 Challenge Level:

How many positive integers less than or equal to 4000 can be written down without using the digits 7, 8 or 9?

Those Tea Cups

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Place the 16 different combinations of cup/saucer in this 4 by 4 arrangement so that no row or column contains more than one cup or saucer of the same colour.

More Plant Spaces

Age 7 to 14 Challenge Level:

This challenging activity involves finding different ways to distribute fifteen items among four sets, when the sets must include three, four, five and six items.

More Children and Plants

Age 7 to 14 Challenge Level:

This challenge extends the Plants investigation so now four or more children are involved.

Teddy Town

Age 5 to 14 Challenge Level:

There are nine teddies in Teddy Town - three red, three blue and three yellow. There are also nine houses, three of each colour. Can you put them on the map of Teddy Town according to the rules?

Wag Worms

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

When intergalactic Wag Worms are born they look just like a cube. Each year they grow another cube in any direction. Find all the shapes that five-year-old Wag Worms can be.

Map Folding

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Take a rectangle of paper and fold it in half, and half again, to make four smaller rectangles. How many different ways can you fold it up?

Tetrahedron Faces

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

One face of a regular tetrahedron is painted blue and each of the remaining faces are painted using one of the colours red, green or yellow. How many different possibilities are there?

Chocs, Mints, Jellies

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

In a bowl there are 4 Chocolates, 3 Jellies and 5 Mints. Find a way to share the sweets between the three children so they each get the kind they like. Is there more than one way to do it?

Cuisenaire Environment

Age 5 to 11 Challenge Level:

An environment which simulates working with Cuisenaire rods.

Calendar Cubes

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Make a pair of cubes that can be moved to show all the days of the month from the 1st to the 31st.

Delia's Routes

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

A little mouse called Delia lives in a hole in the bottom of a tree.....How many days will it be before Delia has to take the same route again?

Penta Post

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Here are the prices for 1st and 2nd class mail within the UK. You have an unlimited number of each of these stamps. Which stamps would you need to post a parcel weighing 825g?

The Puzzling Sweet Shop

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

There were chews for 2p, mini eggs for 3p, Chocko bars for 5p and lollypops for 7p in the sweet shop. What could each of the children buy with their money?

Six Is the Sum

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

What do the digits in the number fifteen add up to? How many other numbers have digits with the same total but no zeros?

A Rod and a Pole

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

A lady has a steel rod and a wooden pole and she knows the length of each. How can she measure out an 8 unit piece of pole?

Break it Up!

Age 5 to 11 Challenge Level:

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.

Sorting Symmetries

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Find out how we can describe the "symmetries" of this triangle and investigate some combinations of rotating and flipping it.

Rod Measures

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Using 3 rods of integer lengths, none longer than 10 units and not using any rod more than once, you can measure all the lengths in whole units from 1 to 10 units. How many ways can you do this?

Chocoholics

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

George and Jim want to buy a chocolate bar. George needs 2p more and Jim need 50p more to buy it. How much is the chocolate bar?

Tiles on a Patio

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

How many ways can you find of tiling the square patio, using square tiles of different sizes?

Finding Fifteen

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Tim had nine cards each with a different number from 1 to 9 on it. How could he have put them into three piles so that the total in each pile was 15?

The Money Maze

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Go through the maze, collecting and losing your money as you go. Which route gives you the highest return? And the lowest?

Cat Food

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Sam sets up displays of cat food in his shop in triangular stacks. If Felix buys some, then how can Sam arrange the remaining cans in triangular stacks?

Play a Merry Tune

Age 7 to 11 Challenge Level:

Explore the different tunes you can make with these five gourds. What are the similarities and differences between the two tunes you are given?