How to use Mathsteasers
While Mathsteasers are designed to be flexible, there are some best practices to keep in mind. We’ve also listed below a few techniques that teachers in the MNP community have found useful.
Have a suggestion of your own? We’d love to hear it! Email us — we welcome ideas and updates from educators like you.
Give them a try
It’s key to attempt some of the problems before introducing them to pupils. This lets you assess the difficulty of the problem, and better understand the question’s objective. Remember: these questions can be very difficult even for adults, so don’t worry if you can’t answer them right away!
Create the right atmosphere
It’s important to create an atmosphere where pupils know extra challenges are available. All children will struggle with different areas of learning. When it comes to that struggle, all pupils — including advanced learners — should feel supported. Work to create a classroom culture where struggle is promoted and celebrated, and not discouraged.
You know your class better than anyone: where they struggle, and where they shine. Use that knowledge to carefully select Mathsteasers questions that give your pupils the challenge that’s right for them.
When choosing questions, think about the objective of your lesson, and how you can provide that conceptual stretch.
To help pick the right question, each problem is ranked with a star system:
No stars = an average Mathsteasers question
= more difficult than average
= very difficult
Feeling stuck on a problem? Solutions, full explanations and additional guidance are at the end of each chapter.
Let them navigate
Encourage learners to find the Mathsteasers booklet for themselves. Go one step further and ask them to find the question. It’s a simple step, but an important one that can foster independent learning and resilience.
Put it up on the board
Write your Mathsteasers question on the board before or during a lesson. You can nudge advanced learners towards the problem, but don’t discourage other learners: it’s perfectly okay if adventurous pupils struggle or fail.
If the majority of your class don’t get to the question, don’t worry. Mathsteasers should not be the objective of a lesson — standard content is enough of a challenge for most.
Use questions as an Anchor Task
If a Mathsteasers question fits your lesson objective for the day, you can use it as an anchor task. Give your class time to tackle the question in pairs or groups. While pupils may find the question too difficult to tackle individually, working in groups gives learners the opportunity to discuss the question, analyse the problem and hopefully reach a solution.
Work through it
Advanced learners can work through a Mathsteasers chapter to see how far they get. When they reach a tough spot, encourage them to power through it rather than giving up. This promotes resilience and positive attitudes about success and struggle — essential skills for every learner.
Use it to refresh
Mathsteasers help gauge pupils’ retention skills. Use a problem that relates to content from a previous lesson or topic, and ask learners if there’s something they’ve already learnt that could help solve the problem. If they struggle to connect the problem to prior lessons, this could indicate that the pupil hasn’t understood the topic at a greater depth.
Learners may feel more comfortable struggling and experimenting with challenging questions while attempting problems at home. If you do provide a Mathsteasers question as a homework exercise, choose a question that builds on concepts taught in that day’s lesson.
Pair with Journaling
Mathsteasers pair well with journaling. Even if a pupil finds a question too difficult, ask them to write down their thinking around it. This lets you see their starting point, the methods they used to attempt the problem and any links they’ve made between prior concepts. You’ll gain a clear view of how they understood the problem, and the steps needed to deepen their understanding of a concept.