Balloon Bursting Buttons

Using only these keys on your calculator make each of the target numbers on the balloons. Use the minimum number of key presses.





Brilliant Balloon Busting!

Is it possible to do it using fewer than key presses?


A Maths Lesson Starter Of The Day

Topics: Starter | Arithmetic | Calculator | Place Value | Problem Solving

  • Malcolm P, Dorset
  • A set of real life savers!!
    Keep it up and thank you!
  • Pete Freer, Rotherham
  • Prompted a great deal of enthusiasm and competition to find the quickest way!
  • Joe Murray, Linwood High
  • We did it in 35 moves beat that!
  • Kenny Dyson, Deans Community HS, Livingston
  • We got 34.
  • Russ Skinner, Grant Park High School, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
  • I found an answer for 30 moves
  • Jamie Pascoe, Notton House School
  • I completed this exercise in 28 moves taken screen shot I can email it to you!! :):)
  • BIS Jakarta, Indonesia
  • My clever class did it in 24 buttons!
    Beat that!
  • Mr. B., Essex, UK
  • Can you please provide how you did it in 26 steps ive been trying forever and cant do it in less than 32
  • Year 8 Set 2 Brinsworth Comp, Rotherham
  • As a class we have managed to complete this in 24 moves!
    Can anyone beat that?
  • Transum,
  • Thanks everyone for their feedback. Perhaps we should set some rules here.
    When you first load this starter the target numbers are 16, 24, 97 and 624. If you refresh the page or click the "Change Numbers" button you will get four random target numbers. Let's agree that we are looking for the least number of button presses which achieves the original four target numbers.
    Rather than just the number of button presses you should also record the buttons pressed E.g. 15+1+5+… etc
  • Mr Barnes, Bradford
  • This was a really good starter, I did it with my top set year 7 and they loved it, especially when they realised there were shorter ways than what they had done, it made them determined to find it.
  • Tom, LGS
  • I'm not great at Maths but I did it in 63.
  • Dr Mills, 7M1, Stockport Academy
  • We solved it in 35, and we think we could get it down to 33.
  • Tegan Macintosh,
  • This was a fun activity but we couldn't beat 50 moves.
  • Mrs, Cornwall, Claydon High School
  • My Year 7s have found 16 in 5 moves, 24 in 13 moves, 97 in 14 moves and 624 in 15 moves. Do you know what you the lowest amount of moves is for each number?
  • Year 9, George Abbot
  • We managed to do it in 24 moves. Nice and easy. We await the next challenge.
  • Jack F, Risca
  • Year 8 did it in 48 moves. Hooray.
  • Alex W, Risca
  • Year 9 took 42 moves. Well done to Alex.
  • Shannon And Natasha And Class, Risca
  • We did 40 moves.
  • S Sharples And Year 7, Helston
  • We tried this as a year 7 class and got 44 but will be coming back next lesson as we are sure we can beat it! We loved it.
  • S Sharples Year 10, Helston
  • We got this in 36 moves and would love to know how they got it in 7 because we do not think it is possible.
  • Carmo, Hillsborough Secondary
  • Did it in 41 moves.
  • Carol Lowry, Chapel High School
  • I am disappointed that you can no longer refresh and get the same numbers as classes like to try the same challenge a few times.
    Otherwise great activity.

    [Transum: The Start Again button allows you to do the challenge again with the same numbers]
  • 7A1, Montgomery High School
  • Montgomery High School Blackpool UK Class 7A1 (Mr Gunn's) cracked this in 34 moves. We are awesome!
  • Mr Simon Perry, Orley Farm, Harrow
  • My year 4 Maths set managed to work this out in 34 steps - needless to say I was pretty impressed as I gave them the target of 40!

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.
Click here to enter your comments.

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Note to teacher: Doing this activity once with a class helps students develop strategies. It is only when they do this activity a second time that they will have the opportunity to practise those strategies. That is when the learning is consolidated. Click the button above to regenerate another version of this starter from random numbers.

Christmas Present Ideas

It is often very difficult choosing Christmas presents for family and friends but so here are some seasonal, mathematics-related gifts chosen and recommended by Transum Mathematics.

Equate board game

Here's a great board game that will give any family with school-aged kids hours of worthwhile fun. Christmas is a time for board games but this one will still be useful at any time of year. Games can be adapted to suit many levels of Mathematical ability.

For Maths tutors working with just one or small groups of pupils this game has proved to be an excellent activity for a tutorial. Deciding on the best moves can spark pertinent discussions about mathematical concepts.

Equate looks a bit like Scrabble--for aspiring mathematicians, that is. Designed by a real mathematician, it works like this: You put down tiles on a board and make points by correctly completing simple equations. Your nine tiles include both numbers and mathematical symbols; you can add on to previous plays both vertically and horizontally. more... #ad

How Not To Be Wrong

The maths we learn in school can seem like an abstract set of rules, laid down by the ancients and not to be questioned. In fact, Jordan Ellenberg shows us, maths touches on everything we do, and a little mathematical knowledge reveals the hidden structures that lie beneath the world's messy and chaotic surface. In How Not to be Wrong, Ellenberg explores the mathematician's method of analyzing life, from the everyday to the cosmic, showing us which numbers to defend, which ones to ignore, and when to change the equation entirely. Along the way, he explains calculus in a single page, describes Gödel's theorem using only one-syllable words, and reveals how early you actually need to get to the airport.

What more could the inquisitive adult want for Christmas? This book makes a cosy, interesting read in front of the fire on those cold winter evenings. more... #ad

Graphic Display Calculator

This handheld device and companion software are designed to generate opportunities for classroom exploration and to promote greater understanding of core concepts in the mathematics and science classroom. TI-Nspire technology has been developed through sound classroom research which shows that "linked multiple representation are crucial in development of conceptual understanding and it is feasible only through use of a technology such as TI-Nspire, which provides simultaneous, dynamically linked representations of graphs, equations, data, and verbal explanations, such that a change in one representation is immediately reflected in the others.

For the young people in your life it is a great investment. Bought as a Christmas present but useful for many years to come as the young person turns into an A-level candidate then works their way through university. more... #ad

Apple iPad Pro

The analytics show that more and more people are accessing Transum Mathematics via an iPad as it is so portable and responsive. The iPad has so many other uses in addition to solving Transum's puzzles and challenges and it would make an excellent gift for anyone.

The redesigned Retina display is as stunning to look at as it is to touch. It all comes with iOS, the world's most advanced mobile operating system. iPad Pro. Everything you want modern computing to be. more... #ad

Before giving an iPad as a Christmas gift you could add a link to iPad Maths to the home screen.

Craig Barton's Tips for Teachers

Teaching is complex. But there are simple ideas we can enact to help our teaching be more effective. This book contains over 400 such ideas." more... #ad

"The ideas come from two sources. First, from the wonderful guests on his Tips for Teachers podcast - education heavyweights such as Dylan Wiliam, Daisy Christodoulou and Tom Sherrington, as well as talented teachers who are not household names but have so much wisdom to share. Then there's what he has learned from working with amazing teachers and students in hundreds of schools around the world.

Another Craig Barton Book

The Story Of Maths [DVD]

The films in this ambitious series offer clear, accessible explanations of important mathematical ideas but are also packed with engaging anecdotes, fascinating biographical details, and pivotal episodes in the lives of the great mathematicians. Engaging, enlightening and entertaining, the series gives viewers new and often surprising insights into the central importance of mathematics, establishing this discipline to be one of humanity s greatest cultural achievements. This DVD contains all four programmes from the BBC series.

Marcus du Sautoy's wonderful programmes make a perfect Christmas gift more... #ad

Christmas Maths

This book provides a wealth of fun activities with a Christmas theme. Each photocopiable worksheet is matched to the Numeracy Strategy and compatible with the Scottish 5-14 Guidelines. This series is designed for busy teachers in the late Autumn term who are desperate for materials that are relevant and interesting and that can be completed with minimun supervision.

All the activities are suitable for use by class teachers, supply teachers, SEN teachers and classroom assistants and cover topics such as 'How many partridges did the true love give all together?' and 'Filling a sleigh with presents by rolling a dice!'. Children will have lots of fun working through the Christmas Maths themes but also gain valuable skills along the way.

A great source of ideas and another reasonably priced stocking filler. more... #ad

A Compendium Of 	Mathematical Methods

A Compendium Of Mathematical Methods

How many different methods do you know to solve simultaneous equations? To multiply decimals? To find the nth term of a sequence?

A Compendium of Mathematical Methods brings together over one hundred different approaches from classrooms all over the world, giving curious mathematicians the opportunity to explore fascinating methods that they've never before encountered.

If you teach mathematics to any age group in any country, you are guaranteed to learn lots of new things from this delightful book. It will deepen your subject knowledge and enhance your teaching, whatever your existing level of expertise. It will inspire you to explore new approaches with your pupils and provide valuable guidance on explanations and misconceptions. more... #ad

Math with Bad Drawings

I had been tutoring the wonderful Betsy for five years. When the day came for our last ever session together before the end of her Year 13, I received this beautiful book as a gift of appreciation.

This a very readable book by Ben Orlin. I'm really enjoying the humour in the writing and the drawings are great.

Ben Orlin answers maths' three big questions: Why do I need to learn this? When am I ever going to use it? Why is it so hard? The answers come in various forms-cartoons, drawings, jokes, and the stories and insights of an empathetic teacher who believes that mathematics should belong to everyone. more... #ad

Click the images above to see all the details of these gift ideas and to buy them online.

Maths T-Shirts

Maths T-shirts on Amazon
Maths T-Shirts on Amazon

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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 a calculator workout.

Student Activity

Other broken calculators;
1 and 5 2 and 3 3 and 4 4 and 5 5 and 2 6 keys


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