Posted in Chinese New Year, Numicon, Problem solving

Cover the animals

It’s the Year of the Pig

It’s the Chinese year of the pig and Digit Dog and Calculating Cat are using the Numicon® shapes to cover the picture of the pig.

You will need the pig picture (download and print on pink paper) and a set of Numicon® shapes. Ask learners to use the Numicon® shapes to cover the pig in any way they can.

Screenshot 2019-02-05 14.55.59

How many different ways can you do it? Describe what you’ve done.

Compare your pig with your friend’s. What’s the same and what’s different? How did you check that your way was different from your friend’s?

  1. When the pig is covered, one child closes their eyes, another takes away one shape. Which one is missing? How do you know?
  2. Put some shapes in a feely bag, take them out one at a time and place on the pig. Can you find the ones you want by touch alone?  This helps with visualising the shapes.


How did you cover the pig? How many shapes did you use? Talk about how you chose the shapes. Which shapes were most useful?

Can you cover the pig using different shapes?

How many different ways can you do it?

What is the fewest number of shapes you can use? The most?

Can you just use odd shapes? Even shapes?

What if you weren’t allowed to use the same shape more than once? How many ways can you do it? Is this more difficult? What are you thinking?

Can you use one shape repeatedly to cover the pig? Which shapes will work? Which won’t? Why?

Encourage learners to describe and explain what they are doing.

Look for those learners who had a strategy for choosing shapes and those who did it randomly.

Look for learners who swap shapes for other equivalent shapes each time they look for a new arrangement rather than starting from the beginning.

Encourage learners to put all their completed pigs together and ask “what is the same?” “what is different?”


Try the same activities with the other animals (download here).



Posted in Chinese New Year, Problem solving

Chinese New Year – the 12 zodiac animals problem

the race

There are many versions of the story about the order of animals in the Chinese zodiac. They all involve a race with the order of the zodiac animals being chosen according to the order in which the animals finished the race.

This is a problem solving activity for groups of 3 or 4 children, or it can be used as a class/group activity with younger children to encourage discussion, reasoning, logical thinking and use of mathematical language.

The 14 clue cards have all the information needed to solve the problem. Cut out the cards and share them between the children in the group.

Ask children to:

  • read the cards;
  • find the card that tells them what to do (Find the order of the animals)
  • organise the cards – which ones are most useful to start? which have redundant information?

Work through the information. Use the numeral cards and picture cards to help.

Use children themselves and the animal masks from to solve the problem. Read the clues and children can move around to find the right order.

Encourage children to check their solution by reading through the clues again.

Posted in Calculating, Games

Play PIG

When Digit Dog saw that this year was the Chinese Year of the Pig, it reminded him of the dice game PIG.

Play PIGpig

PIG is a game for 2 – 6 players

You need one dice.


The aim of the game is to get to 50.

Players take turns to roll the dice as many times as they like, adding the numbers as they go. A player can end their turn at any time and “bank” their points.

BUT if a player rolls a 1, they lose all their unbanked points and their turn is over. When you roll a 1 you shout PIG!

The first player to score 50 or more points wins.

For example:

screenshot 2019-01-30 09.15.40

It is Digit Dog’s turn and he throws a 2, 5, 4 and 3. His total so far is 14.

What shall he do now? Shall he throw again and hope that he doesn’t throw a 1? If he throws a 1 he will lose all 14 points. Or shall he bank his 14 points so that they are safe and end his go?

Calculating Cat has banked 20 points from her first turn. On her next turn she throws 2, 6 and 5 so she has 13 points unbanked. What shall she do? Bank the 13 points and add them to her 20 points so that she has a total of 33? Or throw again? If she throws a 1 she will lose her 13 points.


  1. Change the target score – make it lower or higher. The first player to score 100 or more points wins. The first player to score 30 or more wins.
  2. Use a 1 – 3 dice and a lower target score.
  3. Make the calculating more accessible by collecting Numicon shapes each time you roll and put them on the number line. screenshot 2019-01-30 09.31.58
  4. Use 2 dice. If a player rolls one 1, their turn ends and they lose their points for that turn. If a player rolls double 1 , their turn ends and they lose all banked points as well as points from that turn.
  5. Use 2 dice. Rolling one 1 ends the turn and all unbanked points. Throwing a double earns double score – so double 2 = 8 etc. and double 1 scores 25.