Squares Animals

Nine animals are arranged in three rows of three:

Nine Animals

Draw three squares to contain and separate them.

A Mathematics Lesson Starter of The Day

Topics: Starter | Logic | Multiple Intelligences | Problem Solving | Puzzles | Shape

  • Sonia Goel, Newton Prep
  • The question for today's mental starter was very vague. The question was not explained thorough enough.
    We did not realise the squares could be of different size.
  • Ross Roberton, International School of Luxembourg
  • We loved this starter. More like this please.
  • Mrs Sweeney's Maths Class, Netherlee PS
  • We managed to do this but we needed clearer instructions. We enjoyed this puzzle.
  • Miss Smith,
  • For the puzzle with 4 across and 4 down the answer is 9 squares.
  • Miss Laycock, Walbottle Campus
  • We have found a solution for the 4x4 grid of animals that only requires 6 squares courtesy of Fran in 10G1.
  • Mr Werner, Holyhead
  • The 4 x 4 grid can be done with 5 squares!
  • Class 2.5, Brechin High
  • We enjoyed this one and discovered that the nine animals can be separated by drawing two squares.
  • Maisie, Korean International School
  • Great starter! The more vague instructions the better. Helps to build lateral thinking skills.
  • Transum,
  • 'The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.' - Albert Einstein.
  • Wesley C., HCS 8A
  • Wes found an alternate way to separate the 9 animals using three squares. It is different than the way shown on your website. Also, we found the instructions quite appropriate. Give it a try...
  • Leeona Bonnes, Blackridge Primary 7 Scotland
  • This is a very good website I really enjoy it
    This one was very clever you really have to think about it I was stuck one but got help then got it.
  • JP Atiaga, Ecuador
  • Yes, the 4x4 can be done with 5 squares.
  • Mrs Rock, Osmaston Primary School
  • The 9x9 grid can be done with 2 squares if rotation is allowed.
  • Faye Harris, O.L.S.T
  • We struggled with this problem until we realized the squares could be at different angles.
  • Mr.T, Manchester Health Accedamy
  • Please could someone tell me how to he 4x4 with 5 squares, so I can explain to my class. Thank you!
  • Jasminder, Reading
  • Can someone please explain how this problem can be solved?
  • Mrs Myers, Millthorpe
  • Mrs Myers' fabulous year 9 class had fun with this. The boy who got the extension question got a standing ovation! Well done Ben!
  • Ms Smith, STM
  • Where are the answers? We did this puzzle as a brain starter in form time in the morning but, as we couldn't find the answer the Yr8 students went away and were asked to play with the challenge throughout the day to find an answer. But, I'm still not sure how it works myself!

    [Transum: The answer to the puzzle above and the two extension questions can be found below if you have signed in as a teacher. If you scroll down this page you will see the answer area in red.]

How did you use this starter? Can you suggest how teachers could present or develop this resource? Do you have any comments? It is always useful to receive feedback and helps make this free resource even more useful for Maths teachers anywhere in the world.
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Previous Day | This starter is for 6 January | Next Day



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Extension 1

What if there were four rows of four animals?
How many squares would it take to separate them all?

Sixteen Animals





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Extension 2

Put these animals into four rectangular pens so that there
is an odd number of animals in each pen.

Nine Animals





Online Maths Shop

Laptops In Lessons

Teacher, do your students have access to computers such as tablets, iPads or Laptops?  This page was really designed for projection on a whiteboard but if you really want the students to have access to it here is a concise URL for a version of this page without the comments:


However it would be better to assign one of the student interactive activities below.

Laptops In Lessons

Here is the URL which will take them to another puzzle requiring a good spacial awareness.


Student Activity



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