Willie Wiggle Wiggle Worm

(MathPickle, 2010)

Willie Worm is an enjoyable and challenging visual spatial problem, which encourages persistence in problem solving, as well as providing students with a purposeful reason for practicing counting and writing numbers from 1 to 25. Download printable puzzle-sheets here.  Some are purposefully impossible.

Music is the arithmetic of sounds as optics is the geometry of light.

Claude Debussy

Here is an extension from Willie Wiggle Wiggle Worm: Given that Willie Wiggle Wiggle Worm is in some position, find the fewest number of clues you must give so that somebody else can figure it out.

For this position I think that five clues are needed, but I’m really not sure. This is difficult to prove, but a fun mini-competition. I wonder: For all positions in an NxN box, what are the greatest and smallest number of clues required?

Standards for Mathematical Practice

MathPickle puzzle and game designs engage a wide spectrum of student abilities while targeting the following Standards for Mathematical Practice:

MP1 Toughen up!

Students develop grit and resiliency in the face of nasty, thorny problems. It is the most sought after skill for our students.

MP2 Think abstractly!

Students take problems and reformat them mathematically. This is helpful because mathematics lets them use powerful operations like addition.

MP3 Work together!

Students discuss their strategies to collaboratively solve a problem and identify missteps in a failed solution. MathPickle recommends pairing up students for all its puzzles.

MP4 Model reality!

Students create a model that mimics the real world. Discoveries made by manipulating the model often hint at something in the real world.

MP5 Know the tools.

Students master the tools at their fingertips - whether it's a pencil or an online app. 

MP6 Be precise!

Students learn to communicate using precise terminology. MathPickle encourages students not only to use the precise terms of others, but to invent and rigorously define their own terms.

MP7 Be observant!

Students learn to identify patterns. This is one of the things that the human brain does very well. We sometimes even identify patterns that don't really exist 😉

MP8 Be lazy!?!

Students learn to seek for shortcuts. Why would you want to add the numbers one through a hundred if you can find an easier way to do it?


Please use MathPickle in your classrooms. If you have improvements to make, please contact me. I'll give you credit and kudos 😉 For a free poster of MathPickle's ideas on elementary math education go here.

Gordon Hamilton

(MMath, PhD)