Do you notice anything about the solutions when you add and/or subtract consecutive negative numbers?

The NRICH team are always looking for new ways to engage teachers and pupils in problem solving. Here we explain the thinking behind maths trails.

The number of plants in Mr McGregor's magic potting shed increases overnight. He'd like to put the same number of plants in each of his gardens, planting one garden each day. How can he do it?

Try entering different sets of numbers in the number pyramids. How does the total at the top change?

Rectangles are considered different if they vary in size or have different locations. How many different rectangles can be drawn on a chessboard?

Think of a number, add one, double it, take away 3, add the number you first thought of, add 7, divide by 3 and take away the number you first thought of. You should now be left with 2. How do I. . . .

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. . . .

Delight your friends with this cunning trick! Can you explain how it works?

Take a look at the multiplication square. The first eleven triangle numbers have been identified. Can you see a pattern? Does the pattern continue?

What are the areas of these triangles? What do you notice? Can you generalise to other "families" of triangles?

Imagine starting with one yellow cube and covering it all over with a single layer of red cubes, and then covering that cube with a layer of blue cubes. How many red and blue cubes would you need?

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.

We can show that (x + 1)² = x² + 2x + 1 by considering the area of an (x + 1) by (x + 1) square. Show in a similar way that (x + 2)² = x² + 4x + 4

Draw a square. A second square of the same size slides around the first always maintaining contact and keeping the same orientation. How far does the dot travel?

A 2 by 3 rectangle contains 8 squares and a 3 by 4 rectangle contains 20 squares. What size rectangle(s) contain(s) exactly 100 squares? Can you find them all?

When number pyramids have a sequence on the bottom layer, some interesting patterns emerge...

Three circles have a maximum of six intersections with each other. What is the maximum number of intersections that a hundred circles could have?

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.

The Tower of Hanoi is an ancient mathematical challenge. Working on the building blocks may help you to explain the patterns you notice.

Got It game for an adult and child. How can you play so that you know you will always win?

It's easy to work out the areas of most squares that we meet, but what if they were tilted?

15 = 7 + 8 and 10 = 1 + 2 + 3 + 4. Can you say which numbers can be expressed as the sum of two or more consecutive integers?

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?

Can you describe this route to infinity? Where will the arrows take you next?

Can you explain the strategy for winning this game with any target?

Square numbers can be represented as the sum of consecutive odd numbers. What is the sum of 1 + 3 + ..... + 149 + 151 + 153?

How could Penny, Tom and Matthew work out how many chocolates there are in different sized boxes?

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.

Nim-7 game for an adult and child. Who will be the one to take the last counter?

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. . . .

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. . . .

Imagine an infinitely large sheet of square dotty paper on which you can draw triangles of any size you wish (providing each vertex is on a dot). What areas is it/is it not possible to draw?

Can you find an efficient method to work out how many handshakes there would be if hundreds of people met?

What would be the smallest number of moves needed to move a Knight from a chess set from one corner to the opposite corner of a 99 by 99 square board?

Can you work out how to win this game of Nim? Does it matter if you go first or second?

Triangular numbers can be represented by a triangular array of squares. What do you notice about the sum of identical triangle numbers?

Can you dissect a square into: 4, 7, 10, 13... other squares? 6, 9, 12, 15... other squares? 8, 11, 14... other squares?

Triangle ABC is an equilateral triangle with three parallel lines going through the vertices. Calculate the length of the sides of the triangle if the perpendicular distances between the parallel. . . .

How many moves does it take to swap over some red and blue frogs? Do you have a method?

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. . . .

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.

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.

What would you get if you continued this sequence of fraction sums? 1/2 + 2/1 = 2/3 + 3/2 = 3/4 + 4/3 =

It would be nice to have a strategy for disentangling any tangled ropes...

Jo made a cube from some smaller cubes, painted some of the faces of the large cube, and then took it apart again. 45 small cubes had no paint on them at all. How many small cubes did Jo use?

Use the animation to help you work out how many lines are needed to draw mystic roses of different sizes.

A country has decided to have just two different coins, 3z and 5z coins. Which totals can be made? Is there a largest total that cannot be made? How do you know?

Imagine we have four bags containing a large number of 1s, 4s, 7s and 10s. What numbers can we make?