Start of main content
Age Range: 5-7 | 7-11
Duration: 30-59 mins
  • Maths

Gingerbread man STEM challenge

Gingerbread men, buttons and their maths possibilities

Have fun with maths using gingerbread men and find out how many combinations of buttons are possible. This is a simple maths game for KS1 and KS2 mathematics, as a curriculum mapped activity to do at school or home. 
This activity, in partnership with MEI, is a ‘finding all possibilities’ type of problem. It encourages children to work systematically to ensure they know when all the solutions have been found, as well as ensuring they haven’t made any two gingerbread men look exactly the same. A strategy that will be promoted is the idea of fixing one of the variables, in this case one of the buttons, whilst changing the others in turn. To ensure they become confident talking about their maths, ask the children to work in pairs if possible in a classroom or at home. 

Activity: Gingerbread man STEM challenge

The aim of this maths challenge is to find as many different combinations of different coloured buttons as possible. With a tea party theme, the buttons can be placed on a gingerbread character.
This activity consists of three different stages. 
In the first stage the teacher will provide a plate of gingerbread biscuits and buttons in two different colours. Each gingerbread man will have two buttons on his tummy. 
How many different gingerbread biscuits can you decorate using two buttons? Encourage the children to compare two of their solutions and see if they can find something that is the same and something that is different. 
In the second stage a third coloured button will be added but the gingerbread men can still only have two buttons on their tummy. How many solutions can you find?
The final challenge will be to allow each gingerbread man to have three buttons. How many solutions are there? How can you make sure you do not have any repeats? What is the same and what is different about the biscuits?
The solutions are provided on the activity sheet below.
This fun and delicious STEM challenge will take approximately 45 minutes to complete. 

Tools/resources required

  • Gingerbread characters 4x2 grid
  • Gingerbread characters 4x4 grid
  • Gingerbread characters 10 x 3 grid
  • Coloured counters/unfix/multilink
  • Or Biscuits, and a pot of blue and red buttons for class demonstration

Suggested learning outcomes

By the end of this activity students will be able to develop reason mathematically by identifying and noticing what is the same and what is different about the biscuits, making conjectures and developing an argument, justification or proof using mathematical language. 
Learners will also be able to solve problems by breaking them into simpler steps and to persevere in finding all the solutions. 

Download the free Gingerbread man STEM challenge activity sheet below!

All activity sheets and supporting resources are free to download, and all the documents are fully editable, so you can tailor them to your students’ and your schools’ needs. 
The activity sheet includes teacher notes, guidance, useful web links, and links (where appropriate) to the national curriculum in each of the four devolved UK nations; England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. 
Please share your classroom learning highlights with us @IETeducation.

Related resources