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What is investigative maths?

First of all, what investigative maths isn’t ! It’s not the same thing as practical work (though practical work may be involved) – and it’s not just a different sort of problem-solving. In investigative maths, children are given a starting-point and some clear procedures to try out but they usually have no idea at the outset what sort of results they’re going to get. This is where the interest comes. Good investigations generate patterns of different sorts and it’s these patterns we want children to look for and identify in their results.

What’s the point of investigative maths for children?

Too many people have the idea that maths is a fixed body of knowledge with a rigid set of rules and procedures; they see it as a subject where you get right answers by just learning how to apply the rules correctly. On this view of maths there’s just one correct way of doing each kind of thing and there’s just one right answer. It’s important for children to learn that real maths isn’t all like this – there are plenty of topics still to be investigated and there really is room for being imaginative and creative. In real maths not all problems can be solved by one approach and not all problems have just one straightforward answer. Real maths involves asking questions, investigating and using your imagination.

Our investigations

Our investigations come from a variety of sources; some you might have seen before, whilst others are completely original – but all have been tried and tested in the classroom and found to be practicable, worthwhile and engaging. We’ve presented them in a way which makes them easy to grasp and straightforward to carry out in the classroom. Please look at the list below to see which investigations might well suit which age-groups – but remember these are only suggestions, so feel free to download and use them as you judge best.

investigation year-group
elephant parade teachers’ notes KS1
elephant parade photocopy masters  
spot the ladybird teachers’ notes KS1
spot the ladybird photocopy masters  
get into shape teachers’ notes Yr3
get into shape photocopy masters  
domino squares teachers’ notes Yr3
finding pentominoes teachers’ notes Yr3
seating plans teachers’ notes Yr4
seating plans photocopy masters  
all change teachers’ notes Yr4
all change photocopy masters  
pentomino properties teachers’ notes Yr4
9-spot dominoes teachers’ notes Yr5
rectangle crossings teachers’ notes Yr5
spirolaterals teachers’ notes Yr5
minicubes teachers’ notes Yr5
pent-up pigs teachers’ notes Yr6
pent-up pigs photocopy masters  
polygon diagonals teachers’ notes Yr6
polygon diagonals photocopy masters  
1000 lockers teachers' notes Yr6
1000 lockers first 20 rows  
square nets teachers’ notes Yr6
regions in a circle teachers’ notes Yr6
regions in a circle photocopy masters  
corner to corner teachers’ notes Yr6
corner to corner photocopy masters  

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