Your best ever investment – A puzzle box

The best gift I have ever received (from numberloving co-author Sharon Derbyshire as it happens) is my puzzle box. And yes, this is exactly what you think, a box full of puzzles.

This little box is a life saver at the end of term if like me you refuse to put on Miss Congeniality, or for all those times when for whatever reason you end up having a twenty-minute lesson, or only ten students in the class, or your IWB goes into melt down and you’ve got no board pen… I could go on.

Students love playing with these puzzles and it is time spent well for lots of reasons, so here’s the numberloving wish list for your very own puzzle box

1) Tantrix

This is my favourite puzzle game, you have to fit together hexagonal shaped pieces so that they form loops of different colours. The pieces are very tactile and there are lots of options for play depending on the difficulty you want, these are well worth the investment.

2) Impuzzable cubes or the Bedlam cube

These are loved by students and they will be surprisingly patient in their approach, they basically have to fit some 3d shapes together to make a cube shape. This is great for their spatial awareness and understanding of volume.

3) Rubix Cube

This is obviously a favourite of the students but they will spend forever twisting it around and not getting anywhere so to make it worthwhile teach yourself how to solve them (there are lots of websites with simple methods – I use the layer method) and then you can teach the students the strategy.

4) Sudoku

Print and laminate and allow students to solve using whiteboard markers. If you are really organised then print them onto different colours depending on the ability. Check out our archives for a blog all about Sudoku and beyond!

5) Frog Puzzle

We have all heard of the puzzle where the three frogs on the left have to swap places with the three on the right, print and laminate instructions and some frog pictures (or I bought some little frog toys off ebay). You can even get them to find the pattern as the number of frogs increase and work out the nth term!

6) General Number Puzzles

This is a brilliant set of general number puzzles, I can’t remember where I picked it up. Print and laminate and away you go. You can even use these as starters or weekly form time puzzles.

7) Pentominoes

Print and laminate these pentominoes and get students to try and fit them together in a rectangle, there are lots of potential solutions but it may be worthwhile printing sections of some solutions to help them get started.

8) Wooden puzzles

These and lots of others can be found on where they are classified by difficulty which is very helpful!

Ebay is also a great place to find some of these puzzles for those of us on a budget. Any other ideas for additions to my own puzzle box would be much appreciated, get puzzling! Get in touch @numberloving and check out our NumberLoving Store for free and premium resources.

Christmaths Collection

Oh Christmas tree oh Christmas tree how lovely are your branches?

Simple put, we just don’t do movies in maths lessons, not even if it is the last day of term before Christmas. We continue to teach, of course with a Christmas theme, we are not complete Scrooges! Here is a collection of Christmaths activities I have used and found successful!

This year we are using the Christmas themed functional skills projects for year 7, 8 and 9 developed by Lynn Groove High School teachers. Originally  from but their site is no longer running dhoskins has shared their adaption of the resources on the TES.
Year 7  The Cost of Christmas Applying skills of time and money to make predictions.
Year 8 Christmas Presents To work out a budget, surface area and distances.
Year 9 Christmas Elves Using probability to make predictions.

Christmas Tessellations

 These create excellent instant display work, be sure to challenge the pupils to come up with their own.

This library of ready to print and cut tessellation templates is a useful starting point.

Challenge pupils to cut only equilateral triangles into their own online snowflake.

New update: This site generates random Christmas jigsaw of tessellating pieces

Christmas Coordinate Cards

A Christmas_card_coordinates and Christmas_card_ideas both taken from primary resources site.


Fold your own origami snowflake using a paper hexagon of side 10 cm, watch the video below. Be warned this is not for the feint hearted.

Wow thank you @tj007 for the pointer on making your own 3D snowflake .

Another great activity is challenging the students to make a real snowflake (one with 6 lines of symmetry) be ready for a messy classroom but lots of learning!

Snowball Dodechedrons

Ask pupils to construct some 3D dodechedrons to make piles of snow around the school Christmas tree. Template available here.

Christmas Worksheets It could be said to not be the most exciting however great for form time, Christ-Maths, John Taylor’s downloadable worksheets

Santa’s Christmas Journey Bearings

This resource contributed by alutwyche on the TES resource site, great journey using bearings, check out his other resources too great imagination to engage pupils. has an astounding collection of winter maths activities. There is something here for everyone from primary school to secondary school. I particularly like the 12 days of Christmas, finding the total cost of the presents.

Colleen Young’s latest post Christmas is coming in her blog Mathematics, Learning and Web 2.0 has some great Christmas ideas. I love the nRich advent calendar, a puzzle a day!

Ho ho ho Merry Christmas, hope you find something that engages your pupils into the Christmas/Winter Spirit!

Happy Holidays all Number Loving readers! Get in touch @numberloving

SSAT North West Innovation Show

This academic year sees the SSAT’s (Special Schools and Academies) first regional sister event to The Achievement Show, The North West Innovation Show. UPDATE SSAT has a new website, check it out here 

I first attended The Annual Achievement show in London in 2010, along with 3 colleagues. The day was fantastic as leading professionals shared their ideas, tactics and led delegates through exciting and thought provoking sessions. The event is split into several areas for example; numeracy, literacy, leadership, pupil voice. Each area has a number of sessions delivered by leading professionals throughout the day. Delegates can choice which area and sessions they attend on the day, allowing for flexibility depending upon their need.
Since this event in 2010 we not only return each year with more colleagues to the national event but we have also introduced our own successful All Saints achievement show. This is held within house and plays a huge role in the continuous professional development programme.
The SSAT now looks to increase the opportunities for teachers to attend such events in these increasingly difficult financial circumstances as many schools face budget cuts. So the Innovation show will be held in the North west, reducing travelling costs and attendance is £75 per delegate, with 10% off for multiple delegates from the same institute. Either way it is a great price compared to some courses that are available.
The following seven areas will be delivering 32 sessions during the North West Innovation show; Literacy, Numeracy, Baccalaureate, Leadership, New Technology, Inspiration, Enterprise. Further details are available here Innovation Show Sessions website, registration is needed but very easy. Of course myself and Number Loving’s co-author Laura Rees-Hughes will be presenting in the numeracy area at the show, sharing our ideas and experiences that helped to acquire a special mention in the latest ofsted report for All Saints Catholic CfL.
The show will be held on Monday the 20th of February 2012 at All Saints Catholic Centre for Learning. All Saints Catholic CfL has now established itself as a leading school within the community and has been in the newly built Building Schools for the future building for two years in January. With the schools break out spaces and home base organisation, it is also a great opportunity to see innovative education spaces at the forefront of the profession.

I hope to see you there!

Equation Clocks and More


Wow we just love this clock and I was delighted to receive my very own for my Birthday! Readily available from I want one of those and from amazon.
Now we do love this clock, however our eagle eyes did notice a few inaccuracies. For example there are two answers to the quadratic equation in the place of the 7, and how accurate is the sum in place of the 9? So I have turned this into a learning experience in a number of ways.

1) Make and laminate equations with solutions from 1-12, pupils then place in position on a clock drawn in chalk on the floor (or blue tak to wall), the only clue we gave were a minute and hour hand. We did this as part of Crystal Maze event (to be blogged soon).
2) I have asked pupils to make their own equation clock. This was great as it resulted in many differentiated levels of puzzles. Off course this can be for any topic that gives the answers 1-12, example BIDMAS. Why not have pupils do this on the windows, see our previous blog about using windows.
3) Spot the mistake and correct it; ask pupils to examine the equation clock carefully to see if they can be as eagled eyed as their numberloving teachers!

My all time favourite the backwards clock! A leaving present from my first school and it has baffled pupils ever since!


Great for reflections too! Don’t forget the square root clock, the Pi clock and the fraction clock! Why not have a different one in each of your mathematics classrooms! I have two and plan to keep building on my collection!

Hope you enjoy the ideas here, we are loving sharing our ideas and it would be great to hear back from our readers!