Use each of the numbers only once with any mathematical operations to make an expression equal to the target.

If you can't make the target exactly, how close can you get to it?


A Mathematics Lesson Starter Of The Day

Topics: Starter | Arithmetic | Mental Methods

  • Mike Moon, Royds School Leeds
  • I got 173 from 8 x 11 + 5 x 16 + 5
  • Hardip Sahota, Ernesford Grange, Coventry
  • I did 15 x 14 = 210 then subtract 3 = 207
  • Christine Fraser, St Patrick's Catholic Primary School WELLINGTON TELFORD
  • Children initially would have liked more information. e.g. Could they use each number more than once.
    Children thought they had to use integers individually not combine to form HTU.
    Solved though!
  • Mike Litoris, Mianus, Nebraska
  • I was surprised to find that I had found it a different way.
    33 (16) + 8 = 536
    as well as, the one I used, (making a simple answer that much more difficult)
    (8^3) + 6 (1 + 3) = 536.
  • The Best Class Ever (8cd/m2), King Alfred's College OXON
  • This starter was a nice one to start with for our class. We had two attempts at this one, because somebody shouted out the first answer within 2 seconds(James!!!!!!!!!)
    The sums we had were 49 (which was easy) and 262 (which took longer to do).
    It was a good starter.
  • Chloe Tovell,
  • I got 226 (one out) by
    8x7=56 then
    16+18x5=170 finally
    i really liked this starter of the day and would like to see more like this!
  • Ember, Huddersfield
  • I had 1008. Numnbers were 1 4 1 18 14. Gives good practice on estimation.20 x 10 x 4 is 1000 take it from there. Finally got there with 18 x 14 x 4 + 1 - 1. It was the last bit that was perplexing. 'Can you do that? questions.
  • Adenike Onifade, London
  • I find this very good to teach life skills, I told my pupils that often in life our only limitations are the ones we impose on ourselves. The question did not say what you can or can not do, so get creative and do whaever you want to do: HTU by TU, repeat digits,double it, make up your rules. the differentiation is built in, If the whole class can get the answer the I would have imposed certain conditions to make it more difficult. Good idea, welldone.
  • 9-5 King's Grove, Crewe
  • We found this easier to work backwards. We took the 2 away to work with 390 and when from there. 17+8 = 25 +1 = 26 x 15 = 390 +2 = 392.
  • Jericho And Suheera, East Sheen Primary
  • Answer for 336
    3x8 = 24
    24 x 2 = 48
    288 + 48 = 336.
  • Netherlee Primary, Mrs Sweeney's Epic Maths Set
  • Clearer instructions would have been better. We were confused as to whether we could use the numbers more than once. We enjoyed the challenge though and one girl in the class managed to work it out. We did not use calculators.
  • Alan Brooke-feather, Wolverley High School Worcs
  • Clearer instructions please, otherwise a good starter my top set yr 7s enjojed it.
  • TARGET: 1573
    NUMBER SELECTION: 2,4,7,13,13
    (13-2) X (7+4) X (13) = 11 X 11 X 13 = 1573!
    I happened to notice at the start that the target figure was indeed divisible by 13 (121 times). It was easy then to get the two 11s needed from the remaining four numbers to multiply by one another to get the 121 necessary to then multiply the other 13 in the five numbers by to get the target!
  • Primary 6, Blackridge Primary School
  • We thought it was fun and challenging. I took us a while to finish it. Lots of us tried to think outside the box.
  • Transum,
  • Happy Birthday Countdown! This activity is based on a television programme popular in the UK. Sixty nine series have been broadcast since its debut on 2nd November 1982. With over 5,000 episodes, Countdown is one of the longest-running game shows in the world, along with the original French version, Des chiffres et des lettres, which has been running on French television continuously since 1965. [Source Wikipedia].
  • Miss Pocula, All Saints Academy Plymouth
  • Target 1890 with 1, 7, 8, 10 & 14
    (14+7) x (8+9) x 10
    From Harry Shock 9A1.
  • Jackie, Leicestershire
  • I got the number 52224 with a lot of trial and improvement. the numbers were 4 8 8 17 and 12. I did 4 times 8 times 8 times 17 times 12 and it worked, this starter was amazing but tricky.
  • East End Primary, Twitter
  • Mr Norris And 8Q4, Birmingham
  • Queensbridge School got 2822.857 with a target of 2828.
    3^9 / 7 = 2811.857
    2811.57 + 11 = 2822.857.
  • Williamston Primary, Twitter
  • Mattocks Primary School, Primary 7
  • 14 x 19 = 266
    3 x 7 = 21
    add them together = 287
    Then x 287 by 1 = 287.
  • Pirakeev, Malmesbury Primary School
  • I got 185 by doing,
    19 + 4 + 14 x ( 1 x 5 )
    23 + 14 x 5
    37 x 5 = 185!

How did you use this starter? Can you suggest how teachers could present or develop this resource? Do you have any comments? It is always useful to receive feedback and helps make this free resource even more useful for Maths teachers anywhere in the world.
Click here to enter your comments.

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How many different sulutions do you think there are?

What strategies did you use?

Did you use your head, paper or a calculator?

Or did you use all three?

Could a computer help solve this problem?

Would you improve if you practised solving problems like this?

How could a group of students efficiently work together on a problem like his?

Number of seconds for timer:

Note to teacher: Doing this activity once with a class helps students develop strategies. It is only when they do this activity a second time that they will have the opportunity to practise those strategies. That is when the learning is consolidated. Click the button above to regenerate another version of this starter from random numbers.

Christmas Present Ideas

It is often very difficult choosing Christmas presents for family and friends but so here are some seasonal, mathematics-related gifts chosen and recommended by Transum Mathematics.

Equate board game

Here's a great board game that will give any family with school-aged kids hours of worthwhile fun. Christmas is a time for board games but this one will still be useful at any time of year. Games can be adapted to suit many levels of Mathematical ability.

For Maths tutors working with just one or small groups of pupils this game has proved to be an excellent activity for a tutorial. Deciding on the best moves can spark pertinent discussions about mathematical concepts.

Equate looks a bit like Scrabble--for aspiring mathematicians, that is. Designed by a real mathematician, it works like this: You put down tiles on a board and make points by correctly completing simple equations. Your nine tiles include both numbers and mathematical symbols; you can add on to previous plays both vertically and horizontally. more... #ad

How Not To Be Wrong

The maths we learn in school can seem like an abstract set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In fact, Jordan Ellenberg shows us, maths touches on everything we do, and a little mathematical knowledge reveals the hidden structures that lie beneath the world's messy and chaotic surface. In How Not to be Wrong, Ellenberg explores the mathematician's method of analyzing life, from the everyday to the cosmic, showing us which numbers to defend, which ones to ignore, and when to change the equation entirely. Along the way, he explains calculus in a single page, describes Gödel's theorem using only one-syllable words, and reveals how early you actually need to get to the airport.

What more could the inquisitive adult want for Christmas? This book makes a cosy, interesting read in front of the fire on those cold winter evenings. more... #ad

Graphic Display Calculator

This handheld device and companion software are designed to generate opportunities for classroom exploration and to promote greater understanding of core concepts in the mathematics and science classroom. TI-Nspire technology has been developed through sound classroom research which shows that "linked multiple representation are crucial in development of conceptual understanding and it is feasible only through use of a technology such as TI-Nspire, which provides simultaneous, dynamically linked representations of graphs, equations, data, and verbal explanations, such that a change in one representation is immediately reflected in the others.

For the young people in your life it is a great investment. Bought as a Christmas present but useful for many years to come as the young person turns into an A-level candidate then works their way through university. more... #ad

Apple iPad Pro

The analytics show that more and more people are accessing Transum Mathematics via an iPad as it is so portable and responsive. The iPad has so many other uses in addition to solving Transum's puzzles and challenges and it would make an excellent gift for anyone.

The redesigned Retina display is as stunning to look at as it is to touch. It all comes with iOS, the world's most advanced mobile operating system. iPad Pro. Everything you want modern computing to be. more... #ad

Before giving an iPad as a Christmas gift you could add a link to iPad Maths to the home screen.

Craig Barton's Tips for Teachers

Teaching is complex. But there are simple ideas we can enact to help our teaching be more effective. This book contains over 400 such ideas." more... #ad

"The ideas come from two sources. First, from the wonderful guests on his Tips for Teachers podcast - education heavyweights such as Dylan Wiliam, Daisy Christodoulou and Tom Sherrington, as well as talented teachers who are not household names but have so much wisdom to share. Then there's what he has learned from working with amazing teachers and students in hundreds of schools around the world.

Another Craig Barton Book

The Story Of Maths [DVD]

The films in this ambitious series offer clear, accessible explanations of important mathematical ideas but are also packed with engaging anecdotes, fascinating biographical details, and pivotal episodes in the lives of the great mathematicians. Engaging, enlightening and entertaining, the series gives viewers new and often surprising insights into the central importance of mathematics, establishing this discipline to be one of humanity s greatest cultural achievements. This DVD contains all four programmes from the BBC series.

Marcus du Sautoy's wonderful programmes make a perfect Christmas gift more... #ad

Christmas Maths

This book provides a wealth of fun activities with a Christmas theme. Each photocopiable worksheet is matched to the Numeracy Strategy and compatible with the Scottish 5-14 Guidelines. This series is designed for busy teachers in the late Autumn term who are desperate for materials that are relevant and interesting and that can be completed with minimun supervision.

All the activities are suitable for use by class teachers, supply teachers, SEN teachers and classroom assistants and cover topics such as 'How many partridges did the true love give all together?' and 'Filling a sleigh with presents by rolling a dice!'. Children will have lots of fun working through the Christmas Maths themes but also gain valuable skills along the way.

A great source of ideas and another reasonably priced stocking filler. more... #ad

A Compendium Of 	Mathematical Methods

A Compendium Of Mathematical Methods

How many different methods do you know to solve simultaneous equations? To multiply decimals? To find the nth term of a sequence?

A Compendium of Mathematical Methods brings together over one hundred different approaches from classrooms all over the world, giving curious mathematicians the opportunity to explore fascinating methods that they've never before encountered.

If you teach mathematics to any age group in any country, you are guaranteed to learn lots of new things from this delightful book. It will deepen your subject knowledge and enhance your teaching, whatever your existing level of expertise. It will inspire you to explore new approaches with your pupils and provide valuable guidance on explanations and misconceptions. more... #ad

Math with Bad Drawings

I had been tutoring the wonderful Betsy for five years. When the day came for our last ever session together before the end of her Year 13, I received this beautiful book as a gift of appreciation.

This a very readable book by Ben Orlin. I'm really enjoying the humour in the writing and the drawings are great.

Ben Orlin answers maths' three big questions: Why do I need to learn this? When am I ever going to use it? Why is it so hard? The answers come in various forms-cartoons, drawings, jokes, and the stories and insights of an empathetic teacher who believes that mathematics should belong to everyone. more... #ad

Click the images above to see all the details of these gift ideas and to buy them online.

Maths T-Shirts

Maths T-shirts on Amazon
Maths T-Shirts on Amazon

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Laptops In Lessons

Teacher, do your students have access to computers such as tablets, iPads or Laptops?  This page was really designed for projection on a whiteboard but if you really want the students to have access to it here is a concise URL for a version of this page without the comments:

However it would be better to assign one of the student interactive activities below.

Laptops In Lessons

Here is the URL which will take them to a related student activity.

Student Activity


Also available is the previous, Flash Version of this activity.


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