Squares Animals

A Mathematics Lesson Starter of The Day

Nine animals are arranged in three rows of three:

Nine Animals

By drawing three squares can you separate them all?


Topics: Starter | Logic | Multiple Intelligences | Problem Solving | Puzzles | Shape

  • Sonia Goel, Newton Prep
  • The question for today's mental starter was very vague. The question was not explained thorough enough.
    We did not realise the squares could be of different size.
  • Ross Roberton, International School of Luxembourg
  • We loved this starter. More like this please.
  • Mrs Sweeney's Maths Class, Netherlee PS
  • We managed to do this but we needed clearer instructions. We enjoyed this puzzle.
  • Miss Smith,
  • For the puzzle with 4 across and 4 down the answer is 9 squares.
  • Miss Laycock, Walbottle Campus
  • We have found a solution for the 4x4 grid of animals that only requires 6 squares courtesy of Fran in 10G1.
  • Mr Werner, Holyhead
  • The 4 x 4 grid can be done with 5 squares!
  • Class 2.5, Brechin High
  • We enjoyed this one and discovered that the nine animals can be separated by drawing two squares.
  • Maisie, Korean International School
  • Great starter! The more vague instructions the better. Helps to build lateral thinking skills.
  • Transum,
  • 'The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.' - Albert Einstein.
  • Wesley C., HCS 8A
  • Wes found an alternate way to separate the 9 animals using three squares. It is different than the way shown on your website. Also, we found the instructions quite appropriate. Give it a try...
  • Leeona Bonnes, Blackridge Primary 7 Scotland
  • This is a very good website I really enjoy it
    This one was very clever you really have to think about it I was stuck one but got help then got it.
  • JP Atiaga, Ecuador
  • Yes, the 4x4 can be done with 5 squares.
  • Mrs Rock, Osmaston Primary School
  • The 9x9 grid can be done with 2 squares if rotation is allowed.
  • Faye Harris, O.L.S.T
  • We struggled with this problem until we realized the squares could be at different angles.
  • Mr.T, Manchester Health Accedamy
  • Please could someone tell me how to he 4x4 with 5 squares, so I can explain to my class. Thank you!
  • Jasminder, Reading
  • Can someone please explain how this problem can be solved?
  • Mrs Myers, Millthorpe
  • Mrs Myers' fabulous year 9 class had fun with this. The boy who got the extension question got a standing ovation! Well done Ben!
  • Ms Smith, STM
  • Where are the answers? We did this puzzle as a brain starter in form time in the morning but, as we couldn't find the answer the Yr8 students went away and were asked to play with the challenge throughout the day to find an answer. But, I'm still not sure how it works myself!

    [Transum: The answer to the puzzle above and the two extension questions can be found below if you have signed in as a teacher. If you scroll down this page you will see the answer area in red.]

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.

If you don't have the time to provide feedback we'd really appreciate it if you could give this page a score! We are constantly improving and adding to these starters so it would be really helpful to know which ones are most useful. Simply click on a button below:

Excellent, I would like to see more like this
Good, achieved the results I required
Didn't really capture the interest of the students
Not for me! I wouldn't use this type of activity.

This starter has scored a mean of 3.1 out of 5 based on 556 votes.

Previous Day | This starter is for 6 January | Next Day



Extension 1

What if there were four rows of four animals?
How many squares would it take to separate them all?

Sixteen Animals

Your access to the majority of the Transum resources continues to be free but you can help support the continued growth of the website by doing your Amazon shopping using the links on this page. Below is an Amazon search box and some items chosen and recommended by Transum Mathematics to get you started.


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...

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

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.

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...

Extension 2

Put these animals into four rectangular pens so that there
is an odd number of animals in each pen.

Nine Animals
Online Maths Shop

Laptops In Lessons

Teacher, do your students have access to computers?
Do they have iPads or Laptops in Lessons?

Whether your students each have a TabletPC, a Surface or a Mac, this activity lends itself to eLearning (Engaged Learning).

Laptops In Lessons

Here a concise URL for a version of this page without the comments.


Here is the URL which will take them to another puzzle requiring a good spacial awareness.


Student Activity


Extension Answers

©1997-2020 WWW.TRANSUM.ORG