Peg Puzzles in a Math Center

Wooden peg puzzles made using golf tees for the pegs:

Triangular Peg Puzzle: This involved discovering a strategy to solve it. Using a square piece of wood about 3 ½” square, holes are drilled to fit golf tees with five on the bottom row, four above that, then three, then two and finally one at the top forming a triangle. Golf tees are inserted in all the holes but one, usually the top one. The procedure is to jump a peg, remove the jumped peg and continuing to remove each jumped peg. Only one peg may be jumped at a time. The goal is to remove all pegs.

Ten Men in a Boat Puzzle: This puzzle uses logic while trying to discover a pattern. In a piece of wood, 1” x 2” x 12”, 11 evenly spaced holes are drilled in the wooden “boat” to accept  golf tees representing  ten men. There are five of each in two different colors. Starting on the left side, there are five of one color, an empty hole, and then five of a different color. (If a set of wooden boats cannot be made, coins or paper clips or other markers could be used on a paper boat having eleven squares arranged in a row.)

Children are told the following story and directions:

There are two teams of five men each in a narrow boat who decide they want to switch seats with the other team in the middle of a river. They agree to the following rules so the boat won’t tip over: 1) One man may only step over (jump) one other man at a time. 2) One man may move to the next empty seat. 3) A man may only jump over another man of a different color.

When students are successful using the above rules, another rule is added: 4) A man may only move forward toward the other side of the boat, never moving backwards.

When children are used to playing the game, they are asked to determine how few moves are needed to switch the teams of men. Not easy for young children. So then it could be done together to discover how many moves it takes.

Learn more about the math program, along with  games and activities,  in a combined first and second grade class in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on

   Teaching Young Children © Peggy Broadbent 2011 - All Rights Reserved