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.
Can you use the diagram to prove the AM-GM inequality?
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. . . .
You can work out the number someone else is thinking of as follows. Ask a friend to think of any natural number less than 100. Then ask them to tell you the remainders when this number is divided by. . . .
Janine noticed, while studying some cube numbers, that if you take three consecutive whole numbers and multiply them together and then add the middle number of the three, you get the middle number. . . .
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?
Pick a square within a multiplication square and add the numbers on each diagonal. What do you notice?
Take a look at the multiplication square. The first eleven triangle numbers have been identified. Can you see a pattern? Does the pattern continue?
Delight your friends with this cunning trick! Can you explain how it works?
Can you dissect a square into: 4, 7, 10, 13... other squares? 6, 9, 12, 15... other squares? 8, 11, 14... other squares?
It's easy to work out the areas of most squares that we meet, but what if they were tilted?
Can you find an efficient method to work out how many handshakes there would be if hundreds of people met?
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. . . .
Rectangles are considered different if they vary in size or have different locations. How many different rectangles can be drawn on a chessboard?
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. . . .
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. . . .
Polygons drawn on square dotty paper have dots on their perimeter (p) and often internal (i) ones as well. Find a relationship between p, i and the area of the polygons.
What is the ratio of the area of a square inscribed in a semicircle to the area of the square inscribed in the entire circle?
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?
A three digit number abc is always divisible by 7 when 2a+3b+c is divisible by 7. Why?
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?
What are the areas of these triangles? What do you notice? Can you generalise to other "families" of triangles?
How many moves does it take to swap over some red and blue frogs? Do you have a method?
Triangular numbers can be represented by a triangular array of squares. What do you notice about the sum of identical triangle numbers?
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. . . .
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. . . .
What would you get if you continued this sequence of fraction sums? 1/2 + 2/1 = 2/3 + 3/2 = 3/4 + 4/3 =
Take any two positive numbers. Calculate the arithmetic and geometric means. Repeat the calculations to generate a sequence of arithmetic means and geometric means. Make a note of what happens to the. . . .
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.
Can you find sets of sloping lines that enclose a square?
Square numbers can be represented as the sum of consecutive odd numbers. What is the sum of 1 + 3 + ..... + 149 + 151 + 153?
Choose a couple of the sequences. Try to picture how to make the next, and the next, and the next... Can you describe your reasoning?
Sets of integers like 3, 4, 5 are called Pythagorean Triples, because they could be the lengths of the sides of a right-angled triangle. Can you find any more?
Imagine we have four bags containing a large number of 1s, 4s, 7s and 10s. What numbers can we make?
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?
How could Penny, Tom and Matthew work out how many chocolates there are in different sized boxes?
Some students have been working out the number of strands needed for different sizes of cable. Can you make sense of their solutions?
Charlie has made a Magic V. Can you use his example to make some more? And how about Magic Ls, Ns and Ws?
Nim-7 game for an adult and child. Who will be the one to take the last counter?
Imagine we have four bags containing numbers from a sequence. What numbers can we make now?
Can you describe this route to infinity? Where will the arrows take you next?
It starts quite simple but great opportunities for number discoveries and patterns!
The Egyptians expressed all fractions as the sum of different unit fractions. Here is a chance to explore how they could have written different fractions.
Can all unit fractions be written as the sum of two unit fractions?
It would be nice to have a strategy for disentangling any tangled ropes...
Can you tangle yourself up and reach any fraction?
Euler discussed whether or not it was possible to stroll around Koenigsberg crossing each of its seven bridges exactly once. Experiment with different numbers of islands and bridges.
Try entering different sets of numbers in the number pyramids. How does the total at the top change?