Games & Other Mathematical Activities

What to do for those last lessons?

Some of these activities would be great for any lessons, not just at the end of term. The complete collection can always be found on the End of term activities page. For readers familar with this collection all links have been checked and there there have been several updates.

You might want something other than a video, though perhaps consider a Numberphile video or I could make an exception for the counting chimps, a video I was introduced to by Alex Bellos at the SSAT conference which he included in his session and shows the astonishing recall of a chimp – compare the human!

Try some UKMT team challenges, their crossnumber puzzles make a great end of term activity. The junior materials can be found here and senior here.


Relays from Chris Smith. These are excellent, note there is a complete set; I used his Valentine relay very successfully this year! Featured in Mathematical Miscellany#2.

JM Quiz & Matchstick PuzzlesFrom JustMaths a great end of year pub quiz. I do like the way this ends with a round on Matchstick puzzles, this will keep our students happily busy! Note the very useful recommendation for Matchstick Puzzles from Dawie van Heerden.

Get your students thinking with some resources from Underground Mathematics. Try Equation Sodukuor perhaps LCM Sudoku.
Equation Sudoku
Another possibility frm Underground Maths, try the Division Game.

UGM Division Game

Let your students get their phones out to play Factris, a new App published in July 2017 developed by Richard Lissaman, of MEI.

Bingo always works really well.


A team game? Try Workers of Zen.

Workers of Zen

(ATM publish books of team games).

I must mention A Little Problem for the Holidays!

Some Mathematical games and puzzles perhaps? There are plenty to choose from.

The Set Game  which is a daily puzzle is set in The New York TimesHow many sets can you find? Click ‘How to play’ in the menu on the left for the rules.

Or try some pencil and paper games such as Sproutsdescribed very clearly here by the Iowa State Math Department.

Countdown - Nrich
Always popular with students is the game of  Countdown. Exellent programs for both games can be downloaded free from Chris Farmer’s CSF software site. For a new challenge why not try Coundown with Fractions from Nrich or another variation – see this Countdown collection.

Make 24
On a similar theme try  Make 24 a game where four numbers in the range of the natural numbers 1 to 9 are chosen randomly; these must be combined to obtain the result 24  –  but you may only use the four basic arithmetical operations and brackets. This online version optionally shows solutions as well as presenting random problems. The program will also show solutions for any given set of four numbers.

Learn the syntax for WolframAlpha, perhaps a chance for students to explore WolframAlpha, using the various slideshows, note the questions on the worksheetNote the last slideshow on a little fun with WolframAlpha!

Explore the Desmos Graphing Calculator (and note the further reference to Desmos below, use Desmos to create some art work!)

For a main activity a Tarsia puzzle provides an engaging activity. I intend to use one to see how many of the formulae needed for the part of the course which my Year 10 students (age 14-15) will be studying next year are already known.

Darth Vader curve

We could of course have some fun with WolframAlpha. Did you know you can plot Darth-Vader?  There are in fact a whole family of Star Wars curves! Or maybe you prefer Dr Who?!

Have you seen Wolfram fun facts? (You can view these on Twitter whether or not you have a Twitter account). Why not try modifying these queries? Note the different cookies you can try in the cookie query shown below. You could perhaps invent similar problems! How many pizzas would it take to fill the moon? OrJupiter?

fun facts

Art Elements

If those WolframAlpha equations are a bit much for younger students they could try something simpler using the Desmos graphing calculator; look at Alec Schultz’s PacMan for example, you could just show your students how to restrict the domain for straight lines, maybe show them the equation of a circle and see what they can produce! See this post on Graph Art on Mathematics for Students.


To generate some more pretty curves why not try Spirograph?! Students could experiment with these online versions to see the various curves that can be generated.

These logic puzzles from John Pratt should keep students happily and usefully occupied. (I have added these to the Puzzles page on Mathematics Games.) Or we could try another Kakuro Puzzlestudents were fascinated by these when introduced to the puzzles by a member of the class. At the end of the year we often ask students to do a presentation to their peers which works well.

Try (or write a new) Sporkle Quiz.

Sporkle: Find the missing primes in two minutes

Still thinking about games, from Nrich these Strategy games are for Primary teachers; but could also be useful for lower secondary.

For more ideas check Jo Morgan’s Resouceaholic.

We could finish with a song or two!

Wishing teachers everywhere a happy holiday (only WolframAlpha would give you the Scrabble score as well as the definition!)

Mathematics Games

Algebra Meltdown1How time flies – it is almost half term and I realised that I had not set my new classes up on Manga High or Sumdog which I have now rectified. Looking at the games again on Manga High in particular I was struck by the excellent variety of Mathematics skills involved. So many so called Mathematics games are simply Arithmetic but on Manga High students can use games to practise Algebra and Geometry as well as Arithmetic Skills. The Basic Package (free) allows access to all the games and teachers can set the excellent Prodigi Quizzes for a week at a time; teachers will find clear Getting Started Guides here. Scroll down this page to see some samples of the quizzes and for a very comprehensive guide to the content check the information here selecting Algebra for example shows the extensive resources available.

With my Year 9 (UK age 13-14) class we have been studying simultaneous equations and for their homework as well as the text exercises I have given them some alternatives online to support their work, as a school we use MyMaths (subscription site), I have also linked to David Smith’s excellent site (free) and I have just added three Prodigi quizzes to the list! It will be interesting to see which they like – I feel a survey coming on!

Returning to the games, hover over any game to check the skills tested; for example try Algebra Meltdown or The Wrecks Factor for algebraic skills.
Algebra MeltdownAlgebra 2

I have written on Sumdog before, that post has various useful links. You will see from the Sumdog blog that you can now choose skills appropriate for your school; having initially chosen the UK National Curriculum – I changed my mind and went back to the Classic set – skills for 5-14 year olds, worldwide.

Games again…

Nrich - Estimating Angles

Nrich – Estimating Angles

I have I have been very happily distracted playing mathematical games today! It all started when I wanted to find a good resource for estimating angles which Year 7 will be studying this week. My favourite is this from Nrich. I like the incentive of scoring more points for greater accuracy and the fact that like all Nrich games there is an option to display full screen which is excellent for the interactive whiteboard.

This in turn reminded me that I wanted to do a little housekeeping on my Maths Games blog – which is basically just a collection of favourites – many from Nrich.

Find the Factors - Iva Sallay

Find the Factors – Iva Sallay

This is still a work in progress but I have removed outdated links and reorganised pages. I have added a Geometry page for example to remind me about the angle estimation interactive from Nrich. 

I discovered Iva Sallay’s rather nice Find the Factors puzzles not long ago so added a post on that and also included it on the Puzzles Page. Note the other favourites there – I do like the Set Game which is still published every day in The New York Times.

C1 Revision Resource - TES

C1 Revision Resource – TES

A games format always makes a change for revision. Have a look at this rather nice resource on TES for C1 revision (C1 is the first module on the UK A Level qualification – age 16-18). This uses Mark E Damon’s template which could easily be adapted for other topics.

There are some games templates available from the links below for those of you who may wish to create your own resources.

PowerPoint Games – from

Game Templates  (note that these are free for non-commercial use – see About).

The last few days of term …

So – just a few days to go. I have a couple of Year 12 (UK age 16-17) lessons left. We have done everything we should and made a very good start to the Year 13 course – so what to do for the very last lesson? These logic puzzles from John Pratt should keep us happily and usefully occupied. (I have added these to the Puzzles page on Mathematics Games.) Or we could try another Kakuro Puzzle, students were fascinated by these when introduced to the puzzles by a member of the class. At the end of the year we ask Year 12 students to do a presentation to their peers which works well.

I wrote last week on End of term activities and mentioned the excellent Bingo games on Maths Box, colleagues have said how well the Treasure Hunts from the same site worked with their classes. Thank you Maths box!

Still thinking about games, I see that in the latest Nrich newsletter, Strategy games are featured for Primary teachers; these would also be useful for lower secondary.

This week I was pleased to see the new podcast from TES, ‘The Big Conference Interview Special’ which features interviews with some of the speakers from the TSM conference and  includes the pros and cons of using iPads in the classroom, a new curriculum for post 16s and an in-depth discussion about what the new UK mathematics curriculum will look like. At about 16.5 minutes in you can catch Criag Barton talking to me about the use of technology in the Mathematics classroom. The links I refer to can all be found in the slides here.

More Lovely Puzzles!

A consistently popular post on this blog is ‘Lovely Puzzles‘ which has links to many puzzle sites which include mathematical puzzles. This seems a good time of year to investigate some of these further. A good puzzle for Christmas Eve perhaps (or any day!) would be ‘Make 24’.

Make 24 (1)

Can you make 24? You must use all the numbers once and you are allowed the four operations and brackets.
(Further information and solutions for Make 24 and other Number puzzles are listed on the Number page on Mathematics Games). Number puzzles like this can make excellent starters.

Other possibilities for puzzle-type lesson starters come from Erich Friedman who has a variety of Mathematical Puzzles; try his Weird Calculator Puzzles for example or these Number Formation Puzzles both of which would make ideal ‘Bell Work‘.

Untangle - Simon Tatham
Another great collection comes from Simon Tatham, I have been enjoying his ‘Untangle’ puzzles (which I must remember for the next time I teach Graphs in Decision Mathematics!); it is possible to change the number of nodes – use the Type menu.

Whilst many teachers use Suduko and Kenken type puzzles (note that teachers can sign up to receive free weekly KenKen puzzles), perhaps less familiar is Rogo which is very easy to learn.

This post has taken some considerable time to write as I have been very happily distracted by all these lovely puzzles – including joining the dots (from Conceptis Puzzles) something I used to love doing as a child!

Lovely Puzzles!

There are many excellent sources of puzzles available. One that non US readers may be unfamiliar with is a column in the New York Times – Number Play. A new puzzle is published every Monday. (The blog can be followed on Twitter: @NYTimesWordplay.)

At the time of writing the problem is 100 lockers which has a rather satisfying solution! This could be a good end of term activity with students. Note the TEDEd lesson video here.

Staying with The New York Times, remember that is the home of the excellent Set Game illustrated in the image above.How many sets can you find? Click ‘How to play’ in the menu on the left for the rules. A new puzzle is set every day.

Erich's Puzzles
Other favourite puzzle sites are provided here on Mathematics – Games. Erich Friedman’s Puzzle Collection for example includes numerous mathematics puzzles.


As a child a favourite toy was my Spirograph with which I could generate endless pretty curves! Speaking of my favourite toy, there is a wonderful electronic version available.

The Nrich problem ‘Making Maths: Planet Paths‘ challenges students to draw some planet paths using a Spirograph. In case there is no Spirograph to hand they give instructions for making a simple one.


Spirograph – Desmos

Alternatively try an online version. Try Spirograph on the Desmos Graphing calculator.

This applet from (requires Java) allows you to have the moving circle either inside or outside the fixed circle. You can alter various parameters and experiment.

From comes this very clear and easy to use applet (the moving circle is outside the fixed circle).

Spirograph - Autograph Activity

Spirograph – Autograph Activity by Owen Elton

Owen Elton has written an excellent Spirograph Autograph activity (see Simon’s comment below) and also available on the Autograph player a very impressive 3D Spirograph!

For GeoGebra fans there are various applets available, including this which allows colour changes.

Happy Easter

Happy Easter 2017! (Click the link and WolframAlpha will tell you more than you wanted to know about Easter Sunday!)

Since it’s a holiday we should be relaxing! A conversation on Twitter (click the link for an updated post on Twitter) this morning reminded me of the excellent Set Game – a daily puzzle which is provided by the new York Times for age 6 – adult.

For many more puzzles and games see one of the companion blogs to this on Strategy Games and Puzzles. 

Wishing you all a very Happy Easter.

A little problem – solutions

If you have just read ‘A little problem for the holidays…

The clue is to stop thinking about the Maths and find your inner child!

Let’s reorder the numbers, does that help?

Why has 8809 been assigned a value 6 and 0000 a value 4?
What about all the numbers assigned a value of zero?

Scroll down for the answer …….





The value assigned to 2581 should be 2 as there are two closed loops!