Your School

Daily Math Challenge

Greetings Mathematicians,

As a way to stay connected to you during our school closure, I will share a new math challenge with you each day. These activities are optional and meant to be fun. I will try to provide tasks and resources that invite creativity and can be completed with simple materials you can find in your home. Enjoy! 
- Ms. Donahoe

Spring Break Math Enrichment

There has never been a more important time for data literacy. Before the school closure began, I was looking forward to teaching a spring enrichment class on data visualization. I've repurposed some of the materials to share with you as a spring break challenge that combines art, personal reflection, and data. The tasks are all inspired by a year-long data drawing project called Dear Data. The project was the brainchild of Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec, two award winning information designers who lived on different continents (one in New York and one in London). Each week they would select a specific theme, and then collect, organize, classify, and represent their personal data in visually interesting ways. The artists drew their data on one side of a postcard and a detailed legend on the other side before exchanging them by snail mail.

I love this project because the elements of self-reflection encompass all of our core values at PBS: Community, Courage, Kindness, and Love of Learning. Here are a few examples of postcards from the Dear Data Project to get your creative juices flowing:

Day 1:

You'll want to start by organizing your materials. It will be helpful to have the following items on hand:

  • Paper - you can use your math journal or any blank paper you have at your house
  • Writing utensils - Any combination of colored pencils, markers, pens, crayons, or highlighters will work

Task: Experiment with different methods and techniques to determine the best tools for each of the simple drawings. Click on the document to the right to access the assignment page. Click again to view as a printable PDF.

First page of the PDF file: SpringBreak-Day1

Day 2:

Today you'll explore drawing as a form of measurement and you'll collect soundscape data. You will need paper, a pencil, and a clock or a timer for this activity. Click on the document to the right to access the assignment pages. Click again to view as a printable PDF.

Task 1: Drawing Shapes

Task 2: Recording Soundscapes

First page of the PDF file: SpringBreak-Day2

Day 3:

Today you'll practice following a set of rules while analyzing personal data. You will need to have writing and coloring materials handy. Click on the document to the right to access the assignment pages. Click again to view as a printable PDF.

Task: Representing your family

Task: Following drawing rules

First page of the PDF file: SpringBreak-Day3

Day 4:

Today you'll demonstrate your love of learning by creating a data visual about your book collection at home. What do your books reveal about you?


  1. Start by taking an inventory of your bookshelves (you can choose to include physical, digital, and audio if you'd like). Jot notes if it's helpful.
  2. Think about how you will classify your books. Below are a few suggested guidelines if you're feeling stuck. Feel free to come up with your own!
  • Choose shape to represent the books (perhaps a rectangle?)
  • Use color to represent the book's genre
  • Use height or shape to indicate whether the book is physical or digital
  • Shade in the books you've read cover to cover, outline the books you haven't finished
  • Add small details in pen to add extra information (someone has read it to you, you've read it more than once, you dislike it, it's a library book)

3. Create a postcard that illustrates your data. Don't forget to include a legend! Perhaps you'll want to mail the postcard to someone special when you're done?

Below are the postcards Georgia and Stefanie's created to represent their book collections. Feel free to use them as inspiration!

Postcard Photo Source:
Inspiration for this enrichment project: and Observe, Collect, Draw! A Visual Journal by Giorgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec



Thursday, April 2:

Exciting news for math game enthusiasts! Our friends at Julia Robinson Math Festival announce that they will be publishing a game of the week. This week's game is accessible to mathematicians of all ages. Click on the image to the right for details. Click once to access, then click again to open the full document (5 pages total). Play a few times and consider the following questions:

  • What happens when you change the number of dots in the triangle?
  • Does it matter who goes first?
  • What strategies do you notice?


First page of the PDF file: Criss-Cross

Wednesday, April 1:

While I love a good April Fools Day joke, I promise there are no pranks involved in today's math challenge! 

Each letter in the puzzle below maps to one and only number (0-9). There are no leading zeros. There are multiple solutions. How many can you find?

     A  P  R  I   L
+   F  O  O  L  S 
     P  R  A  N  K

Puzzle source: Manan Shah


Tuesday, March 31:

There are tons of fun ways to improve our mental math skills. Today I will share a few web based games that provide a great workout for your brain. 

Kindergarten: Math Limbo

  • This game is a great way for young students to practice simple addition and to think flexibly about number combinations. It also exposes students to multiple visual representations of numerical values (numerals, ten frames, fingers).
  • Click "learn" for a brief explanation


1st Grade and Up: Kakooma

  • Click "practice" to select operation, puzzle size, and level of difficulty
  • When you click "start game" it will briefly walk you through the instructions
  • Addition puzzles will be most accessible to 1st and 2nd graders, 3rd-5th graders should select multiplication


3rd Grade and Up: Mathjong

  • Based on the ancient Chinese tile game, Mahjong, this game allows you to exercise mental math in a fun an strategic game. There are multiple levels of difficulty, and various game formats to choose from. 
  • There are detailed instructions at the bottom of the page (you need to scroll to see them). Don't be intimidated by the instructions - the game is pretty simple once you get the hang of it.


Monday, March 30:

Let's kick off the week with a geometry puzzle! I came across this puzzle on the website Instructions are listed on the printable PDF document. You can also check out the video below for a brief tutorial on how to get started. 

First page of the PDF file: JonsPuzzle_1

Friday, March 27:

Today's challenge is a series of puzzles designed to develop algebraic reasoning. I love that they are accessible to students of all ages and allow children to solve in many ways depending on their age and stage.

The puzzles come from, which was designed by high school math educator, Pete Harrison. To access the puzzles, click on the document and then click again to open the PDF in a separate window. Each file contains multiple puzzle pages.

First page of the PDF file: BovineMathSumPuzzles
First page of the PDF file: BovineMathDifferencePuzzles

Thursday, March 26:

Today I will share one of my favorite mathematical meditations: The New York Times Tiles Puzzle. I find it very relaxing to work on these puzzles. I hope it brings you a sense of calm as well! The puzzles are visually interesting and they change often. There is no subscription necessary, although you will only have access to two puzzles per day without a subscription. Click on the "Rules" link to learn more about how to play.


Wednesday, March 25:

Today's challenge is a paper and pencil strategy game game. The game commonly gets played at Julia Robinson Math Festivals. It's appropriate for all ages, so it makes a great game for siblings to play together. Click here to access the instructions and game sheets.

Play a few rounds and consider the following:

  • What strategies can you find to increase your likelihood of winning? 
  • Is there a more advantageous starting position?
  • Do you consider your approach offensive or defensive?
  • Where is the math in this game?


Tuesday, March 24:

Today I'll share a game that children of any age can play. It's inspired by the book How Many: A Counting Book by Christopher Danielson, which happens to be one of my favorite math picture books of all time. Earlier this winter, our ELC students created their own version, which includes images from the ELC classrooms and outdoor spaces. We'll use their version for today's activity.

How to play:

  • Select an image from the How Many? book:  ELCHowManyBook.pdf
  • Examine the photograph and determine a numerical value that fits with the image. Tell your partner the number you are thinking of.
  • Your partner's job is to guess which objects you quantified and how.
  • Feel free to add any rules you'd like to keep track of the score. Perhaps you assign points based on the number of guesses before guessing correctly?

Let's practice! (Look at the image of colored pencils to the right) 

  • My number is 27. Can you guess how I got 27?
  • What if my number is 3?
  • How about if my number is 6? Are there multiple correct answers?

Tip: Now that you know how to play, you can play using any picture book, photo, jigsaw puzzle, cereal box, etc. 

Photo credit: Kyela (Preschool)

Monday, March 23:

Dice games are a great way to improve fluency. They are also convenient to play at home because they require very few materials. Check out the games below from Math4Love. 

Kindergarten: Number Races.

1st Grade: Fill the Stairs

2nd Grade: Save Twenty

3rd Grade: Blockout

4th Grade: Blockout (Damult Dice Variation), or just Damult Dice

5th Grade and up: Damult Dice Division Allplay; Horseshoes


Friday, March 20:

Today's challenge is brought to you by Annie Perkins, a teacher and mathematical artist from Minnesota. She has been posting a daily #mathartchallenge on Twitter and Instagram this week.

Here is a prompt that can be completed by artists of any age:
Draw a single loopy line that crosses itself as many times as your want, but don't pick up your pencil. Make sure your line meets back at its start. Then, color alternating sections with two different colors making sure that no adjacent regions are the same color.

Try a few! Can you do it? You should be able to. Is there a mathematical reason?

Thursday, March 19:

Try one of the paper folding challenges below. I've included three levels of difficulty to match your level of origami expertise: Tulip (beginner), Frog (intermediate), Dragon (advanced). You will need a perfectly square piece of paper for each of these projects. Some of the instructions contain more than one page. Click on the icon below, then click again to open the instructions in a separate window.

First page of the PDF file: OrigamiChallenges-1
First page of the PDF file: OrigamiChallenges-2
First page of the PDF file: OrigamiChallenges-3

Wednesday, March 18:

The challenge today is to work on SolveMe Puzzles, which appeal to mathematicians of all ages. They start out easy and increase in difficulty. The mobile puzzles build computational skills through logical reasoning and algebraic thinking. You might even enjoy building mobile puzzles of your own.

SolveMe Mobiles: Explore, Deduce, Create

The puzzles are somewhat intuitive. If you need help getting started, follow the steps below:

  • Click on PLAY
  • Select any puzzle
  • Click on the questions mark (?) icon on the bottom left of your screen

Tuesday, March 17:

Below are a series of paper and pencil games recommended by Dan Finkel at Math4Love (one of my favorite math sites). Don't be afraid to play a game for younger students with older children - they are all great opportunities for sibling math play if you have more than one child at home.

Kindergarten & Up:
Dots and Boxes
Don't Make a Triangle
Guess My Number

2nd Grade & Up
Pico Fermi Bagels

3rd Grade & Up
Multiplication Tic-Tac-Toe
Angels & Demons

Monday, March 16:

Did you know Saturday was pi day (3.14)? While pi is typically a middle school concept, there are plenty of fun ways to explore and learn about pi as elementary students! Check out the links below to learn more. 

What is pi? What is pi day?

Exploring pi (K-2):

Exploring pi (3-5):