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Make It Even Brain Teaser

Last Friday, I pulled a this make it even brain teaser out for Figure It Out! Friday.

weekly themed bellwork days.

I found a puzzle called “Make It Even” in The Moscow Puzzles: 359 Mathematical Recreations by Boris A. Kordemsky.

The book is published by Dover, so it’s super affordable!  I’ve found numerous puzzles I want to try out with my students.  This is the second week in a row that our figure it out puzzle has come from this book!

The original puzzle called for 16 objects.  I decided to use bingo chips since I have a giant bag.

bag of bingo chips.

To save time and not have to bag up 16 bingo chips per student, I took a package of 5 plastic bowls I bought at Dollar Tree for $1 and divided the bingo chips into these bowls.  The bowls are cheap feeling, but at $0.20/piece they are amazing!

bingo chips in round bowls from dollar tree.

Here they are, stacked and ready to go.

Make it Even Brain Teaser on Computer Screen with title of "Figure it out!"

My Algebra 2 students and Stats students were much better at reading the instructions and attempting the puzzle on their own.

Make it Even Puzzle Instructions.

My Algebra 1 students struggled even when I read the instructions to them.

There were a ton of “This is too hard” or “This is impossible” comments.  In each class, at least one student figured it out though!

I can’t tell you how many times a student would raise their hand to have me check their solution, and I would walk over to find that they had a column or row with one in it.  I think they were just too focused on making the rows even or making the columns even to even look at it the other way.

Part of me now wonders if students would perform differently on this task if it was presented differently.  Maybe like this?

Modified version of make it even puzzle.

Some of my students tried rearranging the 10 leftover chips into 2 rows of 5.  I think this second phrasing of the problem would prevent that.  If I did the second version, I’d definitely give it to my kids inside a dry erase pocket.

If you don’t have a classroom set of dry erase pockets, you could also use heavy duty sheet protectors. But, I highly recommend investing in a classroom set of the pockets since they are so much more durable.


dry erase pockets

I cannot imagine teaching math without my dry erase pockets! They instantly make any activity more engaging and save me countless hours at the copy machine since I can use the same class sets of copies year after year.

Here are my current go-to recommendations:

Or, maybe combine the two methods and give students the grid and only 10 bingo chips?

Digital Version

Google Slides

Cathy has created a Google Slides version of Make It Even as well. You can find Cathy’s Google Slides version here.

Digital Google Slides Version of Make it Even Puzzle.

Puzzle Solutions

I intentionally do not make answers to the printable math puzzles I share on my blog available online because I strive to provide learning experiences for my students that are non-google-able. I would like other teachers to be able to use these puzzles in their classrooms as well without the solutions being easily found on the Internet.

However, I do recognize that us teachers are busy people and sometimes need to quickly reference an answer key to see if a student has solved a puzzle correctly or to see if they have interpreted the instructions properly.

If you are a teacher who is using these puzzles in your classroom, please send me an email at with information about what you teach and where you teach. I will be happy to forward an answer key to you.

More Brainteasers


Wednesday 26th of August 2020

I've played this with second graders, some of whom have found a solution on their own, some with a pointed hint: "Make one row with four and one column with four. Now figure out where the other three go." They're delighted when they get it.

I've found that checking the rows and then turning the board 90° helps the kids see where their rows or columns are odd instead of even. Some kids see rows more easily; some see columns.

There are lots of solutions, not even counting the rotations.


Thursday 4th of June 2020



Sunday 2nd of December 2018

Starting with the first column, remove the 2nd and 4th chips. In the second column, remove the 1st and 4th chips. Finally, in the last column, remove the 1st and 2nd chips. =)


Tuesday 27th of December 2016

Yes it is possible (y)

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Wednesday 19th of April 2017

It is! :)


Thursday 25th of August 2016

Just to clarify. Is it even as in the same.. or even as in not odd?

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