Posted in Chinese New Year, Logical reasoning, Numicon

Chinese Year of the Ox

2021 is the Year of the Ox

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


You will need the ox picture (download here – make sure you print at 100% so that it is the right size for the shapes) and a set of Numicon® shapes. If you don’t have the plastic shapes you can download a set of printable Numicon® shapes here. 

Use the Numicon® shapes to cover the ox in any way you can.

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

Compare your ox 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?


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

Can you cover the ox again, 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?

What’s missing?

When the ox is covered, player 1 closes their eyes, player 2 takes away one shape. Player 1 says which shape is missing and explains how they know.

Feely bag challenge

Put some shapes in a feely bag, take them out one at a time and place on the ox. Can you find the shapes you want by touch alone?  This helps with visualising the shapes.

Challenge learners to:

  • describe and explain what they are doing.
  • have a strategy for choosing shapes rather than do it randomly.
  • swap shapes for other equivalent shapes each time they look for a new arrangement rather than starting from the beginning.
  • 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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