Posted in Chinese New Year, Numicon, Problem solving

2020 is the Chinese Year of the Rat

It’s the Year of the Rat

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

You will need the rat picture (download here) and a set of Numicon® shapes. Ask learners to use the Numicon® shapes to cover the rat in any way they can.

cover the rat

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

Compare your rat 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 rat 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 rat. Can you find the ones you want by touch alone?  This helps with visualising the shapes.


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

Can you cover the rat 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?

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 rats together and ask “what is the same?” “what is different?”


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



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