Middle School

# 30 Thought-Provoking Math Puzzles for Middle Schoolers

Critical thinking, trial and error, and pure logic abound.

Tired of your tried-and-true math routine? Chances are if you’re feeling the itch to incorporate new activities into your math time, your students are as well. Mixing it up in math class can bring fresh perspectives to stale concepts or standards, and your students will enjoy stretching their brains in different ways with these middle school math puzzles. Critical thinking, trial and error, and pure logic abound in these 30 though-provoking puzzles. Get ready to reignite your middle schoolers’ excitement for math!

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## 1. Sudoku

Sudoku is way more than just an activity to pass the time on long-haul flights. This math puzzle is actually a fantastic problem-solving activity for middle schoolers. Kick-starting your typical math class with a Sudoku puzzle will have your students thinking critically, practicing trial and error, and looking at math in a totally different way. Plus, you can differentiate by providing Easy, Medium, and Difficult puzzles.

## 2. 5 Pirates Puzzle

Ahoy and shiver me timbers! This logic puzzle is perfect for a small-group activity to get your middle schoolers working together to solve the conundrum of how pirates plan to share treasure among themselves. Multiple scenarios will play out in this puzzle, so scaffolding with problem-solving strategies is a must.

## 3. Fives Challenge Puzzle

This puzzle is perfect for reviewing addition, multiplication, division, and subtraction and would be a great activity to do when gearing up to teach order of operations. Students could work in pairs or small groups to riddle out each target number.

## 4. Beehive Puzzle

Perfect for a station during math rotation or for a rainy-day recess activity, this logic puzzle involves creating a beehive shape without having any squares of the same color touching each other. Students can practice trial and error as well as problem-solving.

## 5. Guess My Number

Guess My Number is just as much a riddle as it is a math puzzle. Students use their number sense to determine the number in question. As an extension activity, students can come up with their own clues and trade them with a classmate to solve.

## 6. Math Riddles

Perfect for a morning warmup, these middle school math puzzles activate all kinds of math knowledge. You can poll the class and have them show their work before clicking to reveal the correct answer. This site even has more challenging puzzles if your middle schoolers fly through the easier ones.

## 7. 2048

My seventh graders loved playing this puzzle as an early-finisher activity. Though the idea is simple (move the tiles until two of the same numbers touch), it’s actually great for recognizing exponents and also for thinking strategically.

## 8. Magic Squares

Magic Squares have been around for thousands of years, and they come in all shapes and sizes. The 3×3 grid is a great size to introduce to your students and then work up to larger and more complex grids. You can even bring this puzzle off the paper and have your students write the grid out in sidewalk chalk, or write the numbers on water bottle caps to make a fun tactile activity.

## 9. Impossible Domino Bridge

Using dominoes to build a seemingly impossible bridge is a perfect activity for the first day or week of a new school year. Your students can work together in small groups and get to know one another as they attempt to construct the bridge that looks like it could turn into a game of Jenga at any moment.

## 10. Math Picture Puzzles

Your students communicate through emojis anyway, so why not get math involved? This self-checking site allows them to work independently (on the honor system) and also choose between three levels of difficulty. Students can take this idea to the next level, create their own emojis, and arrange them in number sentences for their classmates to solve.

## 11. What Is the Weight?

Sometimes you just need a quick resource to get your students working on solving a math puzzle. This puzzle comes from an app, so you can have it downloaded on your students’ iPads or tablets. Middle schoolers will focus on determining the weights of different animals, which is good practice for estimating and working with customary/metric units of measurement.

## 12. Colorku

Math doesn’t always have to be just about numbers. This board game uses colors and patterns to focus on analyzing sequences, and would be great to have on hand for those rainy-day recesses as well as for inclusion in a math station. Further, Colorku can be used as a calm-down tool or even a fidget tool.

## 13. Rubik’s Cube

Rubik’s Cubes made a major comeback in popularity when I taught fifth grade. My students would happily sit together at recess to race each other to see who could solve the cube faster. Though entertaining, Rubik’s Cubes are also suited to teach students about growth mindset, spacial awareness, and 3D space.

Buy it: Rubik’s Cube at Amazon

## 14. SafeCracker

Though this puzzle looks like something out of an Indiana Jones quest, it’s actually a tactilely engaging tool that will delight even your most resistant math learners. The goal is to align the wheel into columns where the sum adds up to 40. You might need to get more than one of these middle school math puzzles for your classroom.

## 15. “T” Brain Teaser Puzzle

In addition to sparking structural design creativity, this boxed wooden puzzle challenges middle schoolers to engage in trial and error as they work at fitting 50+ pieces into a cube. Much of math is learning how to persevere through tricky problems or procedures, and this puzzle definitely fosters that.

Buy it: T Brain Teaser at Amazon

## 16. Multistep Equation Puzzle

Solve-and-sort puzzles add flair to repeatedly solving different variations of a math problem for practice. In this free puzzle, students will need to not only solve the equations with variables on both sides, they will also need to sort the problem based on if their solution is positive or negative in order to uncover the secret word.

## 17. Yohaku

In this variation of a classic Sudoku puzzle, students practice critical thinking and exercise their knowledge of how the four math operations work. The best thing about these types of puzzles is that the differentiation potential is endless. Students can solve smaller puzzles with addition, or use only prime numbers in a more complex multiplication problem.

## 18. Jigmaze

One of the Standards for Mathematical Practices is perseverance, and all teachers know that this is a tough one to instill in students, even more so if students are struggling in foundational skills. This type of puzzle can be used to strengthen perseverance as students physically arrange and rearrange pieces of a broken maze.

## 19. Flexagons

Flexagons, octaflexagons, and dodecaflexagons (say that one 10 times fast!) are a mathematical take on traditional origami. Through constructing these paper creations, your students will get exposure to geometrical terms such as facesequilateral triangles, and all manner of types of 3D shapes.

Get it: Flexagons/Medium

## 20. Möbius Strip

Though the high-level mathematical equation may be well above your students’ heads (and mine too, if I’m being honest), the STEAM-centered concept of a Möbius strip can be a fun one to explore and create (no need to go into cosines and conversational belts). Middle school math puzzles for the win!

## 21. Kakuro

In this complex-looking puzzle, the goal is for the sum of each vertical or horizontal line to match the number given at the beginning of the row or column. This site comes with a great explanation on exactly what that means and how to achieve it. A Kakuro puzzle would be a great “learn as you go” activity for students where they really must pay close attention to the instructions to be able to understand the goal.

## 22. Number Searches

This school district’s site has tons of grade-specific number puzzles that would be perfect for when you need to be out of the classroom and have a substitute teacher. They are ready to be printed and contain easy explanations for your students. Check out the number searches, patterns, and 3D riddles.

## 23. Two Truths and One Lie

The tried-and-true icebreaker used at many a staff meeting and the first week of school, Two Truths and One Lie can also be used to review and practice tons of mathematical concepts. These middle school math puzzles cover concepts such as negative numbers, fractions, and a ton more.

Buy it: Two Truths & One Lie Math Edition at Amazon

The objective of this cuttable resource is for students to solve the integer problem and match up expressions that end up having the same sum. The multiple size options are great for differentiation or to make this independent activity into a small-group collaborative activity.

## 25. Perfect Square Roots

For upper middle school students, this square-roots puzzle helps with the recognition of perfect square roots. Rather than simply memorizing the perfect square roots, students work to identify and spell out the specific square root and ensure that it fits within the crossword. In this way, the puzzle is self-checking as well.

Buy it: Square Roots Crossword at Teachers Pay Teachers

## 26. Factor Tree Challenge

Factor trees are an effective way to visually show students the factors of numbers. Trees allow a chain of multiple factors, so you can start with a large number and end up with “branches” that show all of the factors. Once your middle schoolers are familiar with this concept, have them explore this self-checking challenge (and many others as well) that will test their knowledge of abstract factors.

## 27. Ludicross

Another take on Sudoku, Ludicross is interactive in that students can drag and drop the number into position with the goal of making the sum of the numbers in both diagonals the same. Like several of the other puzzles mentioned in this list, students can take this number puzzle to the next level by creating their own and swapping with a classmate to solve.

## 28. Interactive Mobiles

These colorfully shaped mobiles are a unique way for students to make pattern associations. Because these puzzles are self-paced, students can begin with a simple puzzle and work their way up to complex mobiles with three or more shapes.

Try it: Mobiles/SolveMe Puzzles

## 29. Deleting Sheep

This logic puzzle is a doozy! The objective is to remove only two numbers in each row with the result being that each horizontal and vertical line equals 30. Trial and error and problem-solving skills abound in this puzzle, and it will keep your middle schoolers engaged for quite some time.

## 30. Pips Puzzle

Have any spare decks of cards lying around your classroom? This inexpensive item provides a different take on a Magic Square. Students can work in small groups, and maybe you can ignite a little class competition to see which groups can complete the challenge the fastest.

Buy it: Pips Puzzle/Math = Love