Tag Archives: puzzle

336. Geometry Snacks

If you are looking for a very last minute gift for that special Mathematician in your life, or you have Christmas money to spend, may I recommend “Geometry Snacks” by Ed Southall (@solvemymaths) and Vincent Pantaloni (@panlepan)?

It is a nearly pocket sized book of geometry puzzles whose construct of simple, elegant problems can decieve the unwary into thinking the solutions are easy. This is a book for those who embrace mathematical rigour, rather than repetitious guesswork.

In fact, forget buying it for someone else – get one just for yourself!

Geometry Snacks is published by Tarquin (ISBN: 9 781911 093701)

320. Pre-A level skills boost

This is the time of year when Year 11 begin the last minute frantic revision, complete their exams in a haze of hay fever and late nights and then have a well deserved extended Summer Holiday. Over that long summer, they will mature into sensible young adults who are ready to make those critical decisions which will impact their future career choices.

Hang on … this isn’t some idealised political pamphlet describing the leaders of tomorrow!

In reality, Year 12 stroll into the first A-Level lesson like over-confident Year 11s in their own clothes. Except in Year 11 they knew more Maths. Odds are your fresh faced class haven’t looked at a Maths book in over ten weeks!

Despite what some students may think, we teachers aren’t evil. We know they need that long summer to just be themselves. What can we do to help out our future A-Level students and allow them to relax?

I’ve put together a booklet of Maths related activities for students to dip into over the holiday which will be given to them on their last lesson. I hope your students enjoy it!

Alevel prep for Y11 (editable docx)

Alevel prep for Y11 (pdf)

I printed these four pages as a colour A5 (A4 folded) booklet and also printed them as a poster set on A3.



319. Cunning codebreaker

Do you like a good codebreaker or crack the safe task? My first choice teacher for ideas is Alutwyche on TES Resources. Seriously, check out his amazing resources and follow him on Twitter (@andylutwyche).

Now the thing with ‘Crack the safe’ tasks is there will be a small group of students who everyone expects to win it. It doesn’t matter how long the code is, there can be an anti-climax when someone wins.

What if you could level the playing field or extend the challenge?

Introducing the ‘Lock out hasp’ – a common tool in the field of electrical safety. A very ingenious tool that you may want to look up. It allows you to add numerous locks to a puzzle – they could be differentiated solutions, they could be staged problems. The choice is yours!


Different hasps have different numbers of holes, different locks have different numbers of digits: the hardware store is your oyster!

310. Menseki Meiro Area Maze

Menseki Meiro puzzle books crossed my Twitter feed a few months ago and I took the plunge.


Image Credit: Amazon.co.uk

The problem is I couldn’t find an English language version. The Japanese originals were expensive so I bought the Spanish version. I don’t speak Spanish so asked my Spanish first language student who said it wasn’t Spanish – she suspected it was in Catalan!

But back to the Menseki puzzles …

They are ingenious puzzles where you simply use your knowledge of the area of a rectangle to solve the problem. Click on the image to see the cover problem. Puzzle 1 was so straightforward a nine year old could do it, puzzle 99 had Y13 Further Mathematicians befuddled. They make perfect starter or plenary activities for any age or ability.

Solutions are provided and if your copy is in a different language, like mine, you might just expand your mathematical vocabulary.

Whilst looking for a suitable image I also came across Alex Bellos discussing them on The Guardian website. Worth a look!

(By the way – the Menseki book also makes a good birthday present for that special geeky someone)


251. Safe as trees

Here’s a two in one post for you, with a wooden theme:


Tree 1

This fascinating wooden puzzle is available on Etsy. Each line has to add up to 50 – simple? Not as easy as you’d think. A perfect classroom extension puzzle or gift for a puzzle fanatic!

Tree 2

A little starter on logarithms, with a touch of safecracking too!

Crack the safe Logarithms

The questions are sourced from an A-Level textbook – why not make your own textbook tasks more interesting by creating your own safecrackers on the board? Five minutes prep = puzzle fun!

191. Fallen Revision

Which Maths teachers out there are fed up of stressing the same basic exam/test skills? Come on, there must be more than that? You there at the back. That’s more like it!

Unfortunately, us teachers don’t understand student basics:

* Pencils are for chewing, flicking or breaking.
* Rulers are for poking and twanging
* Working out is detrimental to doodling time
* And as for Units – wasn’t that mentioned in PSCHE to do with alcohol?

Sound familiar?

This term I’ve made my class reflect on the basics using a ‘Fallen Phrase’ puzzle template from Discovery Puzzlemaker. The skeleton of the phrase is given, but the missing letters are stacked at the bottom of each column – a bit like a collapsed ‘Wheel of fortune’ puzzle.

Wheel of fortune

The puzzle covers all the basic skills, but it is difficult. My students had to really think what I nag them about, rather than just rearrange the letters.

I just hope all their hard work pays off in their test.

Revision Hints fallen phrase.

Visit the Discovery puzzlemaker site.

174. Algebra snowflakes

Look what my class did today:


We used a hexagonal Tarsia puzzle on expanding single brackets to create large hexagons.

The puzzles were stuck on paper, cut out and the edges reinforced with tape. Twelve hexagons make a splendid snowflake. Once it was stuck together, the wall display was as tall as a Y7 pupil.

Just think what you could do with Tarsia puzzle shapes: snowflakes from hexagons, christmas trees from triangles and bunting from dominoes.

If you want more puzzles, visit Mr Barton Maths for a plethora of resources.