I'm trying to find fun puzzles for younger people (7 years of age and up). I've browsed the internet, searched through math books etc but haven't really found a stellar puzzle.

I realize that perhaps math does not lend itself to puzzles that well, since math is very logical, but maybe you can correct me.

Here are a few "puzzles" I have:

  • I present a matrix of numbers (3x3). The solution is to sum each row and each column. And then to sum the summed rown and summed column. It's not very fun.
  • I present a number, say 4, and two number properties (for example Even and Odd) and also "Neither" and "Both". This is challenging if it is on time.
  • I present a matrix (5x5) of numbers. In this matrix there is a guaranteed sum of 100 "hiding". The total sum of all numbers are often above 1000 (it's not important). The goal is to strike out all numbers, leaving exactly 100. It's not brilliant but it's ok.

I have looked at hyper cubes, Magic Squares (far too difficult), textual problems etc. Sudoku is perhaps a superb example of a good math game (but also too hard for kids)

Maybe this question is unclear but I would love to hear anything you have to say or if you have any good book/link you can recommend.

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Math doesn't lend itself well to puzzles? "Mathematician" is practically a synonym for "paid puzzle solver". $\endgroup$ – Jack M Feb 15 '14 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ You may very well correct me! I did add Sudoku after your comment. That particular comment from my side comes maybe from the fact that I have difficulties making math games myself. Many times it's just a hidden summation game, such as in the first example I gave. And as soon as one discovers that it's just hidden summation, it becomes very easy. $\endgroup$ – VonSchnauzer Feb 15 '14 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ I would direct you to a book called "The Colossal Book of Short Puzzles and Problems" by Martin Gardner. Though many of its problem are difficult even for adults, the ones in the beginning are solvable by children. $\endgroup$ – recursive recursion Feb 15 '14 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent suggestion - you should have put it as an answer. Thanks a lot. $\endgroup$ – VonSchnauzer Feb 15 '14 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ Seven bridges will keep them busy for hours. $\endgroup$ – Richard P Feb 16 '14 at 0:25

Draw 3 houses and 3 utility companies. Try to connect every house to every utility without the pipes crossing. (Impossible because K3 is not planar, but there's lots of fun to be had trying).

The game of Nim. Lay out a handful of matches. Take turns to remove 1, 2, 3 or 4 matches. Try not to take the last match. (Winnning strategy is to leave $5n+1$ matches).

Make a stack of identical bricks. Now displace some of the bricks sideways. How far can you make the pile overhang? Only one brick allowed at each level. (Answer: as far as you like; $n$ bricks can overhang $O(\log n)$ distance).

  • $\begingroup$ Excellent answer. I'm trying to prioritize working with purely numbers, but I really like all your examples. $\endgroup$ – VonSchnauzer Feb 15 '14 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ Okay, how about a calculator game? Multiply 12345679 by any number from 1 to 80. Two thirds of the answers use each digit once, with one digit missing. The rest show repetetive patterns. $\endgroup$ – apt1002 Feb 15 '14 at 20:03
  • $\begingroup$ Alright, I like that. It's possible to do variants on this one. I'll let this question be open for a while so I can get some more answers, but will consider your answer the accepted answer. $\endgroup$ – VonSchnauzer Feb 15 '14 at 20:37

A book I really loved was "The Colossal Book of Short Puzzles and Problems" by Martin Gardner. While I myself couldn't solve about a quarter of the math problems, some of them are easy and simple enough for kids to comprehend and solve, and about half of them have to do with numbers. Even the ones that don't are very intriguing.


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