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Petals Around the Rose

Petals Around the Rose is a fun and frustrating dice-based brainteaser. It makes a great activity for the first week of school in math class!

petals around the rose brainteaser with drawing of rose silhouette and dice background

I first learned about Petals Around the Rose from Annie Forest in her blog post on 8 Ideas for the Last Minutes of Math Class.  Usually, I read a post like this and find suggestions that I’m already using in my classroom.  

petals around the rose brainteaser.

But, Annie had several fun, fresh ideas that were completely new to me. I knew I had to try out Petals Around the Rose with my own students.

Petals Around the Rose

Petals Around the Rose - the name of the game is important.
How to demonstrate you have discovered the secret of petals around the rose.

Figuring it Out Myself

Before I could use Petals Around the Rose with students, I had to figure it out myself!

five dice simulator.

Intrigued, I googled to find an online version to play.  I clicked a button to roll the five dice.  I guessed the score.  I guessed correctly.  Yay.  😀  I rolled the dice again.  I used the same strategy to guess the score again.  Nope.  Wrong.  Heartbroken.  In my frustration, I allowed myself to get sidetracked.

Later, I mentioned the game to my boyfriend (now husband!).  He played a couple of games and seemed as confused as I was.  But, within an hour or so, he sent me a message saying he had figured it out.

Now, I HAD to figure it out.  I’m more than kind of competitive.

It was the last day of school.  And, it was only  half a day at that.  So, that meant quite a few students just didn’t show up at all.  I convinced a couple of students that they should play this fun dice game with me.  After a few turns, I finally figured it out.  

My students didn’t seem quite as excited as I did, but oh well…  They quickly gave up and turned their attention to their cellular devices.  It was the last day of school, after all.

Shaun actually ended up using Petals Around the Rose with his own students in Australia. He wrote about his experiences here.

Online Version of Petals Around the Rose

I really like this online version because it allows you to insert a guess before showing you the score.  It even keeps track of how many of your guesses were correct.

It was from this site that I learned about the Fraternity of Petals Around the Rose.  I decided it would be fun to make membership cards to give to my students after they figured out the puzzle. I’ll share those later in the post.

There is also an NCTM Illuminations lesson for this game that is geared towards Grades 3-5.  I think it will still be a fun challenge for my high school students, though.  I mean, it was a fun challenge for me as a math teacher!

Fraternity of Petals Around the Rose

Whenever I use Petals Around the Rose with my students, I make a VERY BIG deal of it.

Lloyd Borrett’s website says that the group of people who have solved Petals Around the Rose is called the Fraternity of Petals Around the Rose. I love to tell my students the fun fact that Bill Gates is a member of the Fraternity of Petals Around the Rose.

Petals around the rose membership card surrounded by foam dice.

To make membership feel even more special, I present each student who solves the Petals Around the Rose Puzzle with a membership card.

petals around the rose fraternity membership card.

Students sign and date the membership card. In doing so, they pledge to never reveal the secret of petals around the rose to anyone.

petals around the rose poster hanging in high school math classroom.

Some of my students love the membership card. They even go as far as to put it in their wallet. Others think the entire thing is silly and throw them away. Either way, I think that this adds a fun element to using Petals Around the Rose in the classroom.

fraternity of petals around the rose poster for students to sign after joining.

I also made a Fraternity of Petals Around the Rose poster to hang in my classroom.  I made it to print on 11 x 17 cardstock, and I let students sign their name on it when they figure out the puzzle. I keep the same poster from year to year, and students love looking at the names of students from previous years who have solved the puzzle.

Often, students will see a certain student’s name on the poster and announce something to the class like “If so-and-so can figure it out, we can, too!”

Playing Petals Around the Rose with the Document Camera

I like to use my document camera to play Petals Around the Rose with my students.

playing petals around the rose with dice under the document camera.

I roll the dice under the document camera. Students can see the dice that I have rolled on the flat screen television in my classroom.

playing petals around the rose with dice under the document camera.

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.


Friday 25th of September 2015

I thought this was gonna be the death of me but I did finally figure it out. On a larger note....I love your blog! I am a middle school math TA at a school for kids with learning disabilities. We are using notebooks and your foldables are coming in really handy. Thanks for sharing your world with us!

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Friday 25th of September 2015

Glad you persevered! And, thanks for reading my blog!


Thursday 4th of June 2015

Just found your story on NPR and your blog. Figured this out after one try. So either I have seen it before or was just open enough to get the answer...we do tend to complicate things. I love you notebooks. But in our house we have two dysgraphic kids whose notebooks always end up looking awful no matter how much they want them to look good. Added to that they are dyslexic and when teachers create their own textbooks there is no oversight in reading levels or presentation. Not that textbooks are any better. How to you work with kids with learning disabilities? Do you find your approach to help more because of all the different learnin styles you seem to embrace?

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Tuesday 9th of June 2015

Thanks, Rebecca! Our special ed teacher has found the notebooks really useful when students go to visit her in the resource room. She does keep textbooks on hand for students to reference if they don't have the notes. I do have a few students whose notebooks are barely legible. Usually they end up borrowing someone else's notebook... Not sure how to fix this.

Annie Forest

Wednesday 3rd of June 2015

Yay, so glad you found my blog! Now the pressure is on to get a few more posts published... I've been slacking a bit lately.

I agree, seems we should be friends in "real life!" :)

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Thursday 4th of June 2015

:D I definitely know how it is with blogging. I barely blogged at all for quite a few months of this school year. I find that I'm so much better at blogging in the summer, though! Can't wait to see what you post!


Tuesday 2nd of June 2015

Thanks! I'm determined to create a file of "Stuff to do when there are 5-10 minutes left in class." This is going in it. Along with Missionaries and Cannibals. ~Lisa

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Tuesday 9th of June 2015

I've never heard of Missionaries and Cannibals. Care to share?

Lisa Winer

Tuesday 2nd of June 2015

I learned this 21 years ago as: Polar bears, they come in pairs. They sit around the holes of the ice like petals on a flower. How many polar bears do you see? Added bonus: how many fish are under the holes? Then they learn certain rule about dice. And finally, how many plankton are there?

Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove)

Tuesday 9th of June 2015

I saw something about polar bears on the NCTM site. This must have been what they were referring to!

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