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Your best ever investment – A puzzle box
February 2, 2012

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.

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Sharon Derbyshire




  1. Dr Nic

    We have invented a new math puzzle that kids seem to enjoy, called Rogo. Played on paper, it develops addition and subtraction skills as well as problem solving. Played on the ipod or iPad it is quicker, but still develops number awareness. (Well – it sure seems to when I play it.)
    You can see all about it on http://www.rogopuzzle,
    I am really keen for some teachers to use some of my teaching ideas on the site – see

    • Sharon Derbyshire

      Hi Dr Nic
      We currently don’t have iPad’s available in the classroom but I certainly see it as one of the next big resources. Do you have puzzles that can be played on laptops?

  2. ilovemathsgames

    You missed out puzzle cubes! They can be found here: and are AWESOME! The students (and TA’s…) don’t get bored of them, and they teach not only logic, reasoning etc, but also perseverance 🙂 I have enough for one each in a class of 32, and have bought some of the wooden ones on the site too. They are the best investment I’ve made in my classroom.


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